There is no doubt that Skillet has a great formula that seems to work for them in terms of reaching the masses and thus their significance in the rock world plays an important role from a Christian perspective. I am not the biggest fan of their music but I certainly respect what they have been able to achieve within the industry. I hated their debut album and in fact I only really started giving them the benefit of the doubt at around Comatose which was released in 2009, which by then I could tolerate them and today their latest releases are something I can get by on. Their success in the Christian charts has been continuous for the past two decades and their ability to stride successfully between the secular and Christian music world is noteworthy. Victorious is their tenth album and though sounding at times similar to their previous release Unleashed I think overall it is a little more polished. Also think a little more emotional attention was given to it. However in some ways for me it comes off as a continuation of the last release, like a part 2, or disc 2 of a larger album release. Like they had all these songs and divided it over two releases. Again that said there is allot of emotional investment that seeps through by the band on this one that though similar to Unleashed does give it some distance as the songs have a more personal engagement.
The stylistic approach of Skillet is a working formula, and I guess don’t mess with what works for you, and their melodic catchy songs have caught the hearts of thousands. The songs are generally pick me up’s with anthem driven lyrics and kids and adults alike can sing along with relative ease, which works well with their mission based statement they represent.
As I said the formula or platform they use on Victorious is very similar to past creations though there are subtle progressions throughout the album that shows a sense of maturing in the development of their sound and possibly the age of the band members themselves.
Their ability to create danceable tracks yet retain a heaviness to the guitars helps cultivate that distinctive Skillet formula and sound and allows the lyrical base of the songs to roll off the tongue with relative ease. The opening track, “Legendary” is exactly that. The Marilyn Mason influencers entwined with 80’s arena rock overtones give it a really strong anthemic vibe. With Skillet, they seem to make sure the fans are able to sing along allowing them to become part of the songs. “You Ain’t Ready” is like it I more modern rendition of a 80’s Def Leppard song. “Victorious” could save someone’s life whether they are a Christian or not and carries forth the single format of the previous two songs. There is just enough commerciality in their sound and lyrics to be broad without selling out. You got to hand it to them; though they are obviously working to a formula they are genuinely trying to inspire hope. For me whether they making money from it or not is inconsequential then.
The strongly sounding Imagine Dragons song “This is the Kingdom” does not hide their faith and continues the momentum of the message of hope and freedom through victorious living. Vocally sounding a little like a Ozzy Osbourne song,”Save Me” is an alright song saved by a respectable solo. “Rise Up” and “Terrify The Dark” continues with the Skillet formula with the latter revealing where Skillet’s faith and hope come from in a anthemic proclamation.
The industrialized, “Never Going Back” gives life back to the album, allowing it to punch back some ground. Though the over production which is strong on this release does detract from the over result. I hate over produced vocals, and it’s too heavy on this song. “Reach” and “Anchor” again reach deep into the 80’s as modern interpretations of the era where AoR music was the bomb with their ballad driven influences. The album closes with “Finish Line” and “Back To Life” which are your typical arena rock type formula songs. “Back To Life” funny enough is the strongest track in my mind on the album and it gives a strong final hoorah to the album.
Look with any well produced album that’s aimed at the masses there are potential pitfalls in the production as sterility can come over it. Some of the warmth of the songs can evaporate, leaving bones with very little flesh and authenticity to them. I think they have managed to avoid that, largely in my belief through the sincerity of the lyrics themselves. There is plenty of punch in the album, and the guitar work has retained a lot of its life through the production. Overall it is typical Skillet, and fans will be appeased. As much I say it is possibly over produced in some parts, it is a well produced release. It is a commercially packaged album, and thus I kind of expect a bit of over-production in the mix.
The challenge for me with this album is that it’s largely risk free outing, there are no radical directional changes or adaptations taken. The evolution from Unleashed to Victorious is almost nonexistent, and they have not messed around with a working formula, and that is why fans are going to love it. This is not a musical break through release, but nor do I feel its purpose was to be that. Where the band scores on this is in the delivery of that sound. Both lyrically and musically the package is almost perfect, well produced and executed in carrying the Skillet DNA across with relevance and authenticity.
Interesting Fact: “Legendary” was chosen to be the new theme song for a new look WWE Raw
What John Cooper said of the album: In an interview with Radio.com, lead singer John Cooper said the album was composed of fight songs and that he wanted to let others know that “you can be victorious through the trials of life, but life is going to suck sometimes”. In regards to specific tracks, Cooper told Billboard that “Legendary” was about making the most out of your life and referenced the past criticism the band received about their musical path. – Wikipedia.
For fans of: Imagine Dragons, Marilyn Manson, Ozzy Osbourne
Favourite track: “Back To Life”
2. You Ain’t Ready
4. This Is the Kingdom
5. Save Me
6. Rise Up
7. Terrify the Dark
8. Never Going Back
11. Finish Line
12. Back to Life
Written by Donovan de Necker
Release Date: August 2, 2019
Record Label: Atlantic/Hear It Loud
“Hey You, I Love Your Soul” (1998)
“Ardent Worship” (2000)
“Alien Youth” (2001)
“Rise” (2013) [review]
“Unleashed (2016) [review]
John Cooper – lead vocals, bass guitar, acoustic guitar
Korey Cooper – rhythm guitar, keyboards, synthesizers, backing vocals
Jen Ledger – drums, female vocals
Seth Morrison – lead guitar
Video for ‘Save Me’
Lyric video for ‘Anchor’
Video for ‘Legendary’
Lyric video for ‘You Ain’t Ready’