Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Album Review: Skillet - Unleashed

It's impossible to know of every band and every album that we should, and there's a bit of a head smacking the forehead moment when you come across something that you know should have been on your radar before. That's the scenario I found myself in when I was reading the description of Skillet's newest album, which documents their history of success, all of which was foreign to me. While I do not pay an overwhelming amount of attention to what is going on in the mainstream anymore, I feel bad that I hadn't heard anything from a band that is obviously doing quite well for themselves. Well, that changes now, with "Unleashed".

The idea behind this album was to make an album that could be a party, something that would be fun to get together and sing along with. That approach is certainly paid off by the opening track, "Feel Invincible". The electronic elements that open the song are pure party anthem material, and then the song burst open with some massive guitars and a chorus that would make the crowd go crazy at a show. I've heard this sort of thing many times before, but when it's done well, it's always effective. And it is here too as well.

Skillet has a formula for how they're writing songs this time around, and there isn't much deviation on the record. There's certainly something to be said for continuing to do what you do well, but there's also strength in making sure the record doesn't feel like a dozen repetitions of the same track. I wouldn't go that far in describing "Unleashed", but there is a very similar melodic construction that pops up more than a few times, which does make some of these tracks start to blend together. The differences are more in terms of which tracks have a bit more electronic influence, and which have dramatic string arrangements, rather than using the main riffs and melodies to draw the distinctions.

But the core concern of this album was in making a record that was fun, and Skillet has certainly done that. Whether or not it's a bit homogeneous, there is absolutely an energy to the record that propels it along. These songs will certainly go over well in concert, where the live experience will make every anthemic moment feel even larger when a chorus of thousands can amplify them. That doesn't show up on record, but you can tell when it will be there.

Overall, "Unleashed" fits the modern business model of rock music. Bands make their living now on the touring circuit, and "Unleashed" is a record that will go over extremely well in that context. As a record, it's good, but I have to imagine it will come alive when played live.

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