After the release of the amazing “Comatose” in 2006, Skillet was going to be hard pressed to put out an album that was not a let down in some way. “Comatose” attracted legions of new fans (both Christian and non-Christian) to the band thanks to the stellar mix of rock anthems, power ballads, and unflinching lyrics found throughout the album. I can personally say that “Comatose” was in our car’s CD player for three years and never came out (it had a 6 disc changer).
That said, “Awake” has very large shoes to fill as Skillet makes an effort to reach out both to their Christian fans who have been faithful to the band for many years and to the newest “Panheads.” The best way that I can think of to describe “Awake” is as a mix of “Comatose” and their earlier effort, “Collide.” Tracks such as “Monster” have the grittiness and musical stylings of “Collide” while tracks like “Hero” are an evolution of the popular sound found on many “Comatose” tracks.
Here are highs and lows of the album (by track number):
1. Hero- This track picks up right where “Comatose” left off as John Cooper’s gritty vocals mix well with the new harmonies of drummer Jen Ledger whose BGVs change things up from the BGVs provided by Korey Cooper on “Comatose”. This song is Skillet at its sonic best.
2. Monster- If you have ever read Frank Peretti’s The Oath you will think this song should be the theme for the book. This was the single that Skillet released to mainstream radio while Hero went to the Christian markets. Monster is a hard hitting track with a thundering bass line and pounding drums throughout. This track sounds more like “Collide” and is easily a highlight of the disc.
3. Don’t Awake Me- This is a classic Skillet power ballad with Cooper’s vocals softening from the gritty rock sound of Monster. This song could easily be released to mainstream radio as it talks about either, A. a broken human relationship or B. a broken spiritual relationship. This is one song I would like to hear if there is a story behind it.
4. Awake and Alive- This track in more in the vein of “Comatose” and has a strong string section throughout. The song talks about breaking away from a spiritual funk and refusing to fall back into it. A good track, especially if you liked “Comatose.”
5. One Day Too Late- Another power ballad that reminds the listener to make the most of each day because we never know what the next day holds. It’s nothing too unique, but still a solid track with a good message.
8. Believe- One of the best power ballads on the album. This song is about a broken relationship between a man and a woman and the need to have our significant others believe in us. This track stands apart from the two tracks I disliked which were also about broken relationships by being far superior lyrically and sonically.
9. Forgiven- While not overtly Christian, this is the most overtly Christian song on the album (if that makes sense). Cooper and co. sing of Jesus who forgives us even when we continually fail him. “Forgive me I’m ashamed/I’ve loved another/ I can’t explain cause I don’t know/ No one can take your place/ And there is no other/ Forever yours and yours alone” says the second verse of the song. It’s another ballad and a very well executed song with a great chorus and powerful verses.
10. Sometimes- For all my Calvinist brothers and sisters, I like to think of this as the “total depravity”anthem. At first listen, this song seems incredibly depressing, and it is. Cooper sings about how sometime we continue to do wrong even though we know better and sometimes we don’t even want to be better. While this song might not be the most uplifting, I think it is a very honest look at how depraved and sinful humans can be and it makes the previous song all the more powerful in that there is a Savior who will forgive even the most vile of sinners.
11. Never Surrender- I read that this song was written about a person who was struggling with an eating disorder. The lyrics reflect the struggles of someone going through the terrible physical and emotional struggles such a disorder can have. It is a song crying out for help from God so that the struggling person can continue fighting and “never surrender” to the struggles.
12. Lucy- Is a sad ballad about grief, regret, and ultimately hope. Cooper sings about losing someone close and wishing you could go back and change things but finding hope in the fact that Christian will one day be reunited with each other and will no longer have to face things like death and regret.
6, 7- It’s Not Me It’s You, Should’ve When You Could’ve”- I am going to lump these two track together because are similar in terms of content. Both talk about relationships gone south and both are very fluffy lyrically. Even the Skillet songs that are decidedly more mainstream in their content are usually solid lyrically. These two tracks are almost always “skippers” for me because both lyrically and musically they fall flat.
If you check out the reviews on Amazon, this album has not been as well received as “Comatose” with many complaining that it is simply “Comatose”-lite or reloaded. While the album is definitely more of an evolution than a revolution, I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing. Sure, Skillet is not blazing new ground with “Awake” but they certainly haven’t fallen backwards either. If anything, they have dirtied up the “Comatose” sound with grittier vocals and guitar but have retained strong orchestral backing and solid lyrical offerings that “Comatose” possessed.
Other than the two missteps in the middle, “Awake” is a solid effort by Skillet and a worthy successor to “Comatose.” While it may not get the rave reviews of “Comatose,” that should not stop you from picking it up as the production values are top notch, Cooper’s voice is as powerful as ever, the lyrics are honest, and the music is a rocking mix of “Collide” and “Comatose.”