A Quantum Leap
Skillet has been plying its trade in youth-friendly Christian rock for a decade, becoming a go-to band in the industry with Christian radio hits, super-tight and very evangelistic concerts and enough vinyl, hair color and sequenced industro-groove to give more conservative youth pastors Nine Inch nightmares. While they have amassed an impressive following and developed one of the crazier live shows in the business, one thing Skillet has lacked is artistic credibility. Though band leader John Cooper has long been one of the most approachable, passionate and intense personalities in the industry, prior to 2003’s Collide, Skillet seemed destined to fill Petra’s shoes some day. As admirable as fulltime youth ministry is, Skillet had a ways to go before its songs would find purchase in the rocky environs of pop culture. If Collide was a step in the right direction,
however, the October 3 release of Comatose is a quantum leap.
Collide was a breakthrough for the band in several ways. Three years later, the band takes the progress further with 11 songs that unabashedly blend arena rock, progressive rock, modern alternative elements and a lingering post-industrial sensibility into an impressive package. Being the first project the band actually recorded since signing with Lava/Atlantic, the disc sounds larger than life from the first notes. Enlisting the help of veteran producer Brian Howes (Hinder, Hedley) and mixers Chris Lord-Alge (Green Day, Hoobastank) and David Bottrill (Tool, Staind), Lava/Atlantic has given Skillet everything it needs to make a
credible run at the mainstream.
The disc opens with “Rebirthing,” a churning chunk-fest with swirling symphonic stabs adding color and Cooper’s best vocal performance to date. The song is simply enormous. Keyboardist and programmer Korey Cooper is back on support vocals after, unfortunately, keeping her trap shut on Collide. Her voice adds a wonderfully gothic touch. Playing the foil to husband John’s rasp, Korey’s pipes make all the difference in the ever important opening cut. Fortunately, the epic strings and graceful vocals re-appear throughout the disc, coloring the whole project beautifully.
While the musical theme of the record is big rock and hooks, the band finds a way to add some diversity within the formula. There are ’80s-era power ballads (“Yours to Hold,” “Say Goodbye”) and manic metal (“Better Than Drugs”). But its stock-in-trade remains new-century arena rock, full of huge melodies (far more interesting than the band’s typical monotone melodies of the past) and simple, easy-to-grasp lyrical sentiments. Thematically centered on the concept of waking up (to love, to relationships, to truth, to life), there isn’t much here that is truly unique; but arena rock was never about originality in the first place. It’s honest; it’s real; and you can bang your head to it.
JOHN J. THOMPSON
Review Provided by CCMmagazine.com