Skillet ‘Rise’ Album Review

Platinum rock band Skillet has returned to action for their eighth studio album release “Rise”. How does this album stack up against the highly popular predecessor “Awake”? “Rise” certainly packs a punch, but the question that Christians must ask is “Does this album truly have a Christian message, or is this the same as any other angry rock album (cleverly disguised in a Christian “peanut” shell)”? Right up front I will say that “Rise” dives deeper than I had initially expected, but where exactly does it rank? Keep reading to hear what I think!

Foreword

(To get right to the review, go ahead and skip this part)

For those of you who follow Gamerfaith.com, you’ve probably noticed that about 90% of the stuff on here is scripture studies and devotional reading material (with lots of video game and movie references). Only about 1 in 10 posts ends up being a review. There are many reasons for this, the main reason being that this site will always prioritize learning more about our Savior over learning more about media. Another big reason is that there are already very good resources for Christian reviews on the web.

With all of that being said, even when I do actually take the time to write a review, I’m more than likely going to make it about video games or movies. So why am I writing this review? There’s a couple reasons:

  1. I believe the message found in “Rise” is very important when it isn’t misunderstood
  2. Andrew asked me to do it (who is Andrew you ask? Keep reading)

Andrew is one of my best work buddies, and an avid ‘Panhead’ (Skillet fan). As a subscriber and regular reader of Gamerfaith articles (maybe not anymore after this paragraph), I regularly ask (beg) for input on what he’d like to see in blog posts. One day he approached me and said “Well there is one thing I’d like… Can you review Skillets new album?” (The answer was yeeahyuhh!)

The Skillet “Rise” review will be split into two categories

  1. Content Review
  2. Album Review

It only seems fair that an album is scored based off of how good it actually is. With that being said… there are different types of good. The Album Review section will rank things like: music, dynamics, and lyrics. The better the album, the higher the score. The Content Review measures things like: violence, sex, conflicting spirituality, and language. The lesser the inappropriate content is, the higher the score will be. Splitting the reviews into two categories allows for better accuracy, without compromising important values.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This Skillet “Rise” Review is based on the standard version. No bonus or special edition tracks are considered or reviewed.

Album Review

Gamerfaith reviews typically start with the Content Review (because I feel that content tends to be overlooked despite it being the most important factor), but this post is breaking the normal mold once again. I decided to start with an album review first, and you’ll understand why pretty soon if you keep reading.

It’s important to note that prior to listening to this album I was not a Skillet fan. I had heard their singles from previous albums play on the radio time and time again. I came to the conclusion that they were a simple rock band, with basic rock music, that appealed to a Christian audience who was willing to listen to any rock band that didn’t have completely disgusting lyrics. I believed that they were a typical “are they a Christian band or not?” group, that tried to appeal to both believers and non-believers by never pushing the Jesus message very hard. Now before all the Skillet fans in the world chase me with fry-pans, let me say in big black bold letters that I’ve changed my mind.

Lyrics:

“Rise” is both a display of incredible musical talent, and beautiful lyrics that challenge Christians to rise up and take a stand for what they believe in. You see, “Rise” isn’t just an album, it’s a story. The whole album from the lyrics, to the artwork, and the track order are a movement with a common theme. The album tells the story of finding your way against an enemy that seems too strong to overcome. In a world where everything seems to be going wrong, we can feel overwhelmed. The front of the album shows a little girl holding a slingshot, which seems to hint at a David and Goliath theme. Christians may feel small (like a David against the giant problems in the world), but our faith in God can get us through because God is with us. Even the prior two Skillet albums (“Comatose” then “Awake”) hint at the steps that a Christian goes through before they “rise up”. This album enthusiastically announces the salvation we have in Jesus Christ.

Some fairly clear Christian themes are shown in Skillet’s lyric video for

“Not Gonna Die”

Music:

“Rise” is also a fantastic display of musical variety and talent. Seth Morrison (lead guitarist) makes his album debut, and he owns it. From metal shredding on “Circus for a Psycho”, to the very hardcore feeling “Madness in Me”, and all the way to the classic rock-ish “My Religion”. Jen Ledger provides wonderful percussion, but truly shines with her beautiful vocals in “Salvation” and “Fire and Fury”. John and Korey Cooper provide the classic Skillet that so many ‘Panheads’ love, while still expanding on their sound tremendously. John makes the metal vocals work, and doesn’t remain a static “Mr. Rough-voice” like you might expect. In addition to providing wonderful lead vocals, John also takes a back seat and shares the spotlight with Jen from time to time.

Album Verdict:

Skillet’s new album is easy on the ears, but more importantly it is very inspiring. When the message of the album came full circle, I was truly moved. It’s not often that an album speaks a message that feels so relevant to where our culture is. The album starts by acknowledging the dark things  that we need to rise against, and turn from the sin we are sick of. As it progresses it speaks of letting love cut through the things that distract us from our destination. The last chapter of the album sings of finding salvation in the eternal, loving, Jesus Christ who is much bigger than the temporary things of this world. The album concludes with a firm statement that we believe in a God who shines through the darkness.

In the Album Review section I give the lyrically and musically brilliant rock movement “Rise” a 9/10 Inspiring

Content Review

If you’re still wondering why I saved this part of the review for last (contrary to the usual), I’m about to tell you… It’s because there isn’t very much inappropriate content, and in this specific situation I found that the overall message behind “Rise” was more important than the inappropriate content. With that being said, there are some grey areas that deserve to be noted.

Violence:

Without a doubt this album is not endorsing violence. At times, however, it may seem angry. What exactly is it angry about? It seems to be angry about violence (among many other problems our world faces). With lyrics like “Every day you need a bulletproof vest, to save yourself from what you could never guess, am I safe today when I step outside in the wars we wage?”, you can clearly see the frustration that the band faces with how violent this world is at times.

Is this anger a righteous anger? I’ll let you judge for yourself by watching the music video for “Sick of It” above, the lyric video for “Not Gonna Die“, or the lyric video for “Rise” found here.

I mentioned above that the album doesn’t endorse violence, but that doesn’t mean that violence in general is absent. Many of the lyrics refer to things like shootings, car bombs, or other horrors. In one instance we hear a montage of horrible situations including an abusive parent and a mother telling her children to hide under the table from a gunner. These moments are scary, and aren’t tiptoed around. In addition to lyrics, the album artwork can be pretty scary looking too. These things never promote violence (in fact they do the opposite), but they are still definitely something to be aware of (especially for parents who have children interested in the album).

Sex:

The lyrics in the album aren’t about sex. Two of the band members are married (John and his wife Korey). Inappropriate sexual content is so far removed from the equation that it is almost unnecessary to include this section at all. However, it is worth noting that on the back of the album, Jen Ledger (background vocalist/ percussionist),  is wearing a somewhat questionable corset, skirt, boots, and tights combo. In this day and age I would hardly call her outfit “racy”, but at the same time it is undeniably meant to look attractive.

In fact, all of the band members exhibit a sort of  goth/rock fashion that probably isn’t appropriate. I’m not saying that “looking different” is wrong, but that wearing costly clothing with the desire to look attractive is something to be wary of .

1 Timothy 2:9-10 (NKJV)

in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing,

but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.

False Spirituality Grey Areas:

The problem with “Rise” is that there are several times when lyric meaning is unclear or can be interpreted in multiple ways. Some people could potentially get the wrong message from these unclear moments, while someone else might gain something very positive. I’m being truly nit-picky here because I want to try and find most of the confusing or “morally grey” areas. It’s important to note that a HUGE portion of Skillet’s fan-base are non-Christians who may not even know that the band members are Christians. Some songs could be interpreted completely differently depending on the angle it is viewed from.

In “Sick of It”, the lyrics “When everything you do, don’t seem to matter,  you try but it’s no use, your world is getting blacker,  when every time you fail, has no answer, every empty promise made, is a reminder, no one can make this better, take control it’s now or never.” implies that no one can fix the problems we face, but we as Christians know that God can heal our problems. What these lyrics most likely really mean is that we need to take responsibility for what is happening, and fight back with God’s help.

In “Good to be Alive” the lyrics “All we have is all we need, cause one way or another, we’ll always make it, you and me.” could be interpreted that all you need to get through hard times is a good friend/girlfriend/spouse etc. The song seems to be written about his wife, but it’s not completely concrete. Good friends are important, and once again they probably weren’t trying to devalue the importance of God in your life, but it could be confusing for some audiences.

In “Not Gonna Die” the lyrics “The last thing I heard, was you whispering goodbye, and then I heard you flat-line.” are very unclear. They could be interpreted in several ways. It could imply that in a moment of turmoil God seems to fall silent. When we truly seek God, He often shows us many thing. While sometimes we do go through periods where our faith is tested, He never truly abandons us (and the song may be talking about this). The lyrics may not even be referring to God falling silent at all, there are lots of ways to interpret that line. Check out the lyric video to see what you think, and leave a comment below if you’d like.

“Circus for a Psycho” refers to a “beast inside” that is fueled by rage. What this most likely is referring to is a righteous anger against the enemy, but the word choice/meaning could confuse certain audience members.

“My Religion” uses the lyrics “I don’t need to stare at stained glass and a steeple, I don’t need to dress to impress all of the people, don’t need no priest, don’t need no pew, You are my religion, my religion is You”. Once again, these are good lyrics, but just confusing. To a certain audience it could be misunderstood, and devalue church. I think that what it is really trying to say is that Jesus is our true Teacher and that God is our Father. Here is a related reading assignment: Matthew 23: 1-12!

Language:

Skillet’s language remains clean throughout the album, unless something flew under my radar. I listened to the entire album several times, read through the lyric book a couple times, and was unable to find anything.

Questionable Content Verdict:

In Skillet’s words, “In a world gone mad, in a place so sad, sometimes it’s crazy, to fight for what you believe, but you can’t give up, if you want to keep what you love, never give up, no! Rise.”

In the Content Review section I give the slightly confusing but mostly uplifting, motivating, and powerful Skillet “Rise” a 9.5/10 (For Rising Above Anticipation)

Praying for you!

-Caleb

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Photo Source: Skillet at Creation 2007

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