Sound — 8
"Rise" marks the 8th studio album for Christian rockers Skillet, and this release features the band at the top of their game. Following the platinum hit success of their previous album "Awake," the band has returned to unveil their first ever concept record onto the world. The album follows a story based on finding faith in a world full of chaos. Lead singer/bass guitarist John Cooper describes the protagonist of the album with the following quote. "He's coming into adulthood and he's faced by the horrors that we see every day-floods, bombings, earthquakes, school shootings. He's also faced with his own problems from his family life. It's about his path to salvation, and wanting to be significant in some way. The record has a lot of ups and downs, all leading to this salvation experience." Fans of Skillet will recognize the signature sounds of the band throughout "Rise." Korey Cooper's (backing vocals, rhythm guitar, keyboards, synthesizer) powerful string arrangements and creative synth work greatly define tracks such as "Rise," "Not Gonna Die," and "Fire and Fury." New guitarist Seth Morrison puts his staple on this album with the guitar driven rocker "Circus for a Psycho." Morrison also shows impressive solo work on "Salvation," "Not Gonna Die," and bonus track "Freakshow." Skillet have become well known for being high energy, symphonic rockers, and "Rise" is no exception.
Lyrics — 9
"Awake" was the first Skillet album to feature drummer/backing vocalist Jen Ledger, and on this release, her vocal presence takes front and center on multiple occasions. While John Cooper is still the primary lead singer of the band, Ledger can be heard singing lead lines on multiple songs such as "Not Gonna Die," "Fire and Fury," and "What I Believe." The pivotal point in the concept of the album's story comes in with the track "Salvation" which features Ledger taking over lead vocal duties. The album's musical arrangements compliment the lyrics well. The angsty, guitar driven tracks such as "Sick of It," "Madness in Me," and "Circus for a Psycho" are accompanied by aggressive lyrics. "Circus for a Psycho" opens with these lines. "You push me till I break, and the anger turns to rage // Why can't you just leave me alone? // Got your finger on the trigger, you think that you're the winner // But you're gonna get kicked off of your throne." The band also shows its softer side on songs such as "American Noise," "Salvation," "Fire and Fury," and "Hard to Find." The following lines from "Salvation" show John and Korey Cooper's ability to write more vulnerable lyrics. "Been out from under who I am and who I want to be // Held you tightly in my hands, why are we unraveling? // Was it me? Will you come to my rescue? // Or did I push too far when I turned my back on you?"
Overall Impression — 8
As a long time Skillet fan, I think "Rise" holds up well compared to the rest of the band's discography. From a guitar player's standpoint, Skillet's songs have never been very complex, but I feel "Rise" includes some of the band's best guitar work. I love that the band decided to bring Jen Ledger's voice out in the front more on this record, but I'm not a fan of the overproduced vocal effects that can often be heard throughout the album. My biggest issue with a lot of modern rock is the "over polished" sound heard throughout the industry, but I think the songwriting on "Rise" makes up for most of this. All-in-all, Skillet have released a very solid album with "Rise." My initial favorite tracks are "Rise," "Not Gonna Die," "Salvation," and "Circus for a Psycho." "Rise" shows that Skillet are still capable of doing what they do best, and I'm excited to see where the band goes from here.