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Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Rise, the ninth solo album from the Christian rock band Skillet.
In green is my opinion. I am generally familiar with Skillet’s later work, though I haven’t followed their entire discography.
In blue is my cousin Robert’s opinion. He has been a big fan of Skillet ever since he heard Awake and Alive on the radio. He is very familiar with their discography and sound.
Let’s start our track-by-track review!
Rise is a proper re-introduction to Skillet. The song contains many elements that Skillet fans will appreciate upon first listen, notably the familiar orchestral strings and unmistakable male-female harmonization. The classic Skillet staples are spiced up, however, by the inclusion of a children’s choir as well as a rattling explosion of frantic voices at the end of the song. These additions may very well be nods to Pink Floyd. Either way, it is the chorus where the meat of this track can be found. Hard-hitting, it is built to pump up the listener. Rise is a fantastic start to this album, promising power all around. Throw this song on a Hunger Games soundtrack for God’s sakes.
If you have ever needed a battle/war song, look no further. Rise starts off the album with a heavy, powerful song. Skillet declares that it is time to revolt because of how terrible life is. I love how we get to hear more of Jen’s vocals along with her pounding drum skills. Rise gives off a strong message, as is usually the case with Skillet. Rise is a perfect display of how every rock album should begin.
Sick of It
Is it Skillet or is it Linkin Park? Sick of It is founded upon a heavy beat that is entirely driven by electric guitar and pounding drums. Some electronic accents are added in with the relentless guitar in a style comparable to that of Linkin Park. Even the lyrics are reminiscent of those from LP. Sick of It is a fast-moving explosion of a song, undoubtedly a fun listen.
Sick of It reminds me of Skillet’s Monster with its heavy guitar and electronic noises, which is why I did not like it from the very start. Additionally, I do not like how repetitive the lyrics are. Nonetheless, I can see this song being played at a party or at clubs because of its high energy. Out of curiosity, I would love to hear a remixed version of this track. While I am not a big fan of Sick of It, I can understand why many fans love it.
Good to Be Alive
Good to Be Alive is a lovely song. The inclusion of piano softens the entire track, giving it the hopeful feeling that Christian music is known for. The lead guitar emulates David Bowie’s Under Pressure, while the chorus has a ring of the Who’s Baba O’Reilly. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Skillet is a Christian rock band, as their music is very aggressive. Good to Be Alive reminds us that Skillet has an easier side. The band harkens back to their aggressive roots, however, at the track’s end, where an ominous verse is sung by a young girl, foreshadowing darker things to come. Good to Be Alive is a greatly enjoyable track.
There is one word to describe Good to Be Alive: chipper. This song is very positive, as it reminds us to have a great time with our lives. In other words, Good to Be Alive is the exact opposite of Rise. I love the piano in this song. Still, I can’t help but feel that the track is a little too happy. It is odd to hear a song like this after listening to two tracks that didn’t hold anything back. I will admit that Good to Be Alive is repetitive, but the song gets away with repetition because of the high-quality lyrics. When I first heard the dark outro at the end of this song, it caught me by surprise. I was a bit startled because of the negativity of the lyrics. Good to Be Alive is a great way to build up to the next epic track, however.
Not Gonna Die
Not Gonna Die clearly pulls influence from Skillet’s very own Awake and Alive. Frantic strings accent determined lyrics, throwing the listener back to the classic Skillet sound. The guitar solo within the song, while brief, is a real treat. Skillet has a talent for rocking together, but I feel that the band members could discover some new heights if they branched out once in a while and gave one another time to shine individually. This song isn’t quite a step forward in Skillet’s sound, but it is one that listeners are sure to enjoy.
Not Gonna Die starts off with a classic Skillet violin intro which is then followed by a nice riff. We are once again treated with Jen and John’s vocals. This song reminds me of Awake and Alive because of the sick violin-playing and simple-yet-heavy guitar riffs. Not Gonna Die has the heavy sound I love, a speedy guitar solo, crazy violin, and powerful lyrics. I can see this song being used for a crazy battle scene in a movie, an anime movie in particular! Not Gonna Die is a prime example of what Skillet can do, and it is one of my favorite tracks from them.
Circus for a Psycho
Circus for a Psycho’s rapid-firing riff, clearly inspired by AC/DC’s Thunderstruck, begins the song at 100 miles an hour. The entire track is quick-firing madness. The frenzied lyrics, the speedy instrumentation, and the wild guitar solo keep the song moving at a ridiculously fast pace. When the song ends with peaking cacophony and a sigh of relief once silence is finally achieved, you can’t help but sigh along. Circus for a Psycho is off the wall, incredibly high in energy, and a damn good time. If the next song isn’t slower, I may have a heart attack.
You are about to be Thunderstruck…sort of. If this song sounds like the classic AC/DC song to your ears, that is because it is supposed to. Skillet has confirmed this Thunderstruck influence in an interview. As a fan of hard rock/metal, this song is in my comfort zone because of the guitars along with John’s screaming. Circus for a Psycho is very fast paced, essentially a wild roller coaster ride. The guitar solo punches you in the face. I really love this song for all of the energy it has. I am getting a Pink Floyd vibe with all the madness that happens at the end of almost every song from Rise. I am always intrigued when songs have interesting endings and segues into one another.
Through this song, Skillet expresses their disappointment in society as well as their hope of overcoming the “American Noise” that is so contrary to life according to Christian ideology. This song is intended to be inspirational, a pick-me-up for struggling believers and those who are tired of the trappings of American society. Therefore, I feel that it is more fitting in church than it is on an iPod, unless Christian music is one’s primary genre. The same cannot be said about many of Skillet’s other songs, which can double as both church songs and songs for day-to-day listening. American Noise is a preachy song that screams “single.” It could serve its purpose in church, but it surely isn’t the best musical piece offered on Rise.
American Noise is a perfect song for a shy guy like me. Through the lyrics, I can tell that the song is about having enough confidence to put yourself out in the world and being able say what is on your mind. Never second-guess yourself. Always be vocal. American Noise is another positive track, much like Good to Be Alive, though people will be able to relate to American Noise more. Believe me: being quiet, isolating yourself, and not caring about anything is a terrible way to live. I have a friend who is like that, and my buddies and I always try our hardest to change him.
Madness in Me
This song is heavy, carried by a mean-sounding guitar riff. If that riff was a person, it would be a very strong, hairy person; the kind of person who I wouldn’t want to get in a fight with. Madness in Me contains lyrics that are typical of Skillet: There is a war inside of me but I am stronger than that war. And so, while the guitar goes hard in the paint, there isn’t anything new here. Madness in Me is a song that won’t be remembered among all of the dynamic titans on Rise.
The riff of Madness in Me sounds a lot like the hit Three Days Grace song Animal I Have Become. Other than the riff, I am not a big fan of this song. I feel that the lyrics are just typical Skillet lyrics. There is nothing special about Madness in Me, making it another generic heavy rock song. It is a shame, because this song could have been so much more than it is. Still, it is nice to hear Jen’s voice at the end of this song, along with piano.
I really dig the fact that Salvation is dominated by the chick. She does a fantastic job offering her voice to role of lead singer. Having a female lead freshens the song immensely. The fact that the male-female duo isn’t trading vocal blows with each other as they typically do is a huge relief, because that’s what they always do. Keeping the record new and interesting, Salvation is an outstanding song.
Salvation is where Jen Ledger finally shines! Salvation is classic Skillet. Songs like this one are why people love this band. This song is obviously about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As we all know, Skillet is a Christian rock band, but what I love is that they have a heavy sound. Salvation is a beautiful song, and it will always be ingrained in the hearts of Skillet fans.
Fire and Fury
The inclusion of blazing piano makes Fire and Fury an ideal worship song. Unlike American Noise, which is too churchy to be commercial, Fire and Fury is an awesome, easily accessible religious song. The singing duo shines together on this track. While they usually seem to be finishing one another’s sentences, they actually seem to be singing this song together, as if it was a duet being performed on stage. Hats off, this is a well-done song.
Fire And Fury is yet another religious song off of Rise. It is cool how the first half of the album was mostly about real world problems, whereas the latter half of the album feels like classic Skillet. The duet in this song is genius. I could not imagine the song without it. Always remember that no matter how rough life may get, God will always be there to carry you!
Skillet just got grungy on us. Really grungy. My Religion is all edge and attitude. The saucy riff rocks and rolls, amplified by buzzing electronic accents. Even the lyrics are edgy. Skillet seems to be saying that God is enough; going to church isn’t necessary to secure a spot in Heaven. They interpolate a little bit from Amazing Grace within the song, unapologetically molding it for their own purpose. My Religion is a fun ride with bold meaning. Skillet doesn’t get much better than this.
Well…this is different. I like this song’s fast-pace, as it reminds me of classic rock. Once again, we get some meaningful lyrics. This song is about the fact that we do not need a church or religious place to pray. No matter where we are, we can always show our love to Jesus. I enjoyed this catchy, oddball song.
Hard to Find
It’s interesting to hear the Christian side of Skillet. I know that Skillet has always been labeled a Christian rock band, but a majority of their music wouldn’t sound fitting in church unless it was stripped down to being acoustic. Hard to Find is a genuine Christian song, completely appropriate for church as is. It is less ambitious than most songs from Rise, but it has its place regardless.
Hard To Find starts off with a familiar piano intro. Once again, John is singing uplifting lyrics about religion. You may feel that Skillet’s lyricism is growing old by now, but I have come to terms with the fact that Christian rock is repetitive. If you think about it, faith is not all that hard to find. Everywhere you go, you will always find something God created. Hard To Find is a nice song, but in the end, it is what you would expect from Skillet.
What I Believe
What I Believe is essentially a less interesting Not Gonna Die. That’s really all I can say about it. Much of Skillet’s work is formulaic, following the same pattern in each and every song. What I enjoy about Rise as a whole is that, for the most part, every song sounds remarkably different. Aside from a handful of songs, one of those being What I Believe, each song is individually interesting in its own right. I feel that Skillet should have omitted this track from the album. It isn’t a bad track. It’s simply uninteresting.
Skillet concludes the album with another faith-centric song. This song actually sounds like it can be from another Skillet album, Comatose, which happens to be my favorite record from the band. I like how Rise starts off with a heavy song about revolution and ends with another religious tune. Overall, Rise is definitely one of Skillet’s best. It displays their classic side, as well as a heavy side that has not been heard since their Collide album. Thank you all for reading this review of an album from one of my favorite bands. I hope you all enjoyed it! Fun fact: I graduated high school the same day that this album was released. I guess Skillet will always have a place in my heart.
My Top 3
Robby’s Top 3
Not Gonna Die
Skillet is a group that usually plays very close to their chest. The band isn’t known for diversity or for boldness. Rise, however, is diverse enough to mark a change in Skillet. This strong Porkchop is a must-own for Skillet fans and a proper album to start with for those who want to get acquainted. It is dynamic and high in energy, a fresh addition to the band’s discography. Check out Rise.