I’ve waited for a very, very long time to be able to post this review. Skillet is my favorite band of all time — if you follow me here or know me at all, this is common knowledge. I’ve seen them live 15 times, I’ve recorded a song with their (now former) guitarist, they’ve sang me happy birthday at a concert before, all sorts of cool stuff. This band gets me amped on life. They were the first connection I had ever made with music, and ever since I have felt like they get me. Their music has gotten me through some stuff and I probably wouldn’t be alive without it, honestly.
So, at last, we have come to the release of RISE. The highly anticipated follow-up to Awake. Awake, you see, came out in 2009. RISE was announced in June 2011. Right now it’s June 2013. So these crazy cats have been stringing us along for two years now! Originally meant to record in early 2012 with a fall 2012 release — no. Then they decided to headline two tours (neither of which came to my side of the country, just saying), then went into the studio in October 2012 for a release in April 2013…then pushed it to May…then finally settled on June.
As you can see, it is high time this CD finally came out.
The most important thing about RISE is it is a concept album. It’s a storyline, essentially, from start to finish, about a kid living in the craziness of this world. There are various interludes that help the story move forward (which are awesooooome), and it starts out extremely angry and aggressive and gently molds its way to relaxing. It’s kind of hard to explain unless you actually hear it (which, obviously, you should), but it is truly amazing. And Jen (their drummer who did all the artwork, for those of you who don’t know) sings on about 8 songs. Yesssss.
I will try my best to limit myself to describing each song, but the passion may get the better of me…
The opening track to start out the story, this song hits hard with intensity. Some rocking drums flood the background as some shredding guitars take over the foreground. A beautifully balanced John/Jen duet, this song amps up the story, acting as a call to action to rise above the problems of the world and shine. Communal callings like, “Unite, and fight to make a better life. Everybody one for all, sound off, this is the call…Tonight, we rise.”
Not to mention there’s a children’s choir chanting, “Rise, rise, rise in revolution.” And it’s perfectly haunting, in a beautifully crafted symbolism of the generation that has to grow up in all the chaos. The first interlude shows the problems faced, such as school shootings, unemployment, domestic disturbance, and other various issues the world in general has become faced with.
Sick of It
This is my song to my job. And to everyone who makes me mad. And kind of just to the world in general. This song is pretty angry, but as vocalist John Cooper states, “It’s like positive anger.” Confused by that? It’s an aggressive sound with angry lyrics, but the angry lyrics are positive. The theme of this song is letting go of anything that holds you down, anything you’re sick of, and anything that stops you from being the person you want to be. Lyrically, this song is captivating. The guitar riff in this song is out of this world awesome, and Jen can definitely beat the crap out of those drums. This was Seth’s first album with the band, and he did a great job making his style known.
This song encourages us to take things like hatred, distrust, anger, rage, bullying, all of the in between — and toss it out of the window. “Raise your hands if you’re sick of it…Get rid of it while there’s a fighting chance. Are you over it? Bored to death? Have you had enough regret? Take a stand, raise your hands if you’re sick of it.”
I’m sick of plenty of these things, and this song helps you jam it out, honestly. Especially if you like double bass. Because Jen nails that like a boss. I may have a slight crush.
Good to Be Alive
This song…is so happy. A complete and total polar opposite to the song leading into it, this when the “character” of the story realizes it’s about time to turn his/her life around. Skillet dabbled in some extra instrumentation with this CD, and if I’m correct in my abstract musical stylings, I’m pretty sure this song displays their use of dulcimer. This is the ultimate feel good song. It’s the kind they play at the end of a really intense movie, when the characters all walk away with smiles on their faces.
“Driving down this highway, soaking up the sun. Got miles to go before we get home, and the journey’s just begun. We hold on to each other, you are everything I need.”
The mixture of happy lyrics, piano, dulcimer, and everything awesome about Skillet is wrapped into this song right here.
And the interlude that made me pee my pants. The choir singing “Death surrounds me, singing to me softly as the shadow spreads its wings around me.”
Apart from that being my favorite part of the CD, I think it may well be the most awesome thing Skillet has ever done. Ever.
Not Gonna Die
This song is everything fans have ever associated with Skillet. Rocking violins triumphing over heavy guitars, brought together by extreme drums, made perfect by John and Jen singing together. That’s a pretty intense song. Seeing as how the album artwork for this song is tattooed onto my leg, I will forever have a connection to this song. But when they start singing, “This is how it feels when you take your life back, this is how it feels when you finally fight back. When life pushes me, I push harder. What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.”
That is how I feel way too often, and this song evokes an emotion to carry on, even when you feel like the only option is to give up. It encourages to fight back against the things you don’t like, which is obviously a main theme on this CD. And I love it. It’s happy fighting back, in a sense.
Circus for a Psycho
THIS SONG GETS ME SO AMPED FOR LIFE! Honestly, apart from the fact that these are the most shredding guitars I have ever heard in my entire life, I think the music video should speak for itself. I’m sorry this is a live version, but if you do watch this video, just watch the screen in the background.
Gotta love, “Pull the noose tighter and lift a little higher cuz you’re killing me slow, but I ain’t ready to die.” This song makes me just want to jam. Uncontrollably. I woke up unable to move the day after I got this CD because of this song. It’s a headbanger, from start to finish. Seth knows how to shred that guitar, let me tell you. And in the recorded version, we’re faced with another interlude, with the character hearing sirens and chaotic sounds all around him, finally locking himself into a room and taking a deep breath. Leading us forward into American Noise.
This song is so cute. This is when the anger found from the beginning parts of this CD starts to melt away, belting out lyrics like, “Let love cut through the American noise,” and “Bend the rule just to break it, you’re so tired cuz you’ve gotta fake it. But you just wanna be someone.”
It’s such a flawless comforting ballad. It starts to move the story forward into the positive direction it ends in, and as it’s the halfway mark (for the normal CD, not the deluxe), it acts as the turning point in the character’s decision making. Like all of us, we’re faced with a time when we have to start making life decisions instead of temporary ones, and sometimes that can be daunting. Especially when all of the “American noise” floods your ears and never gives you an opportunity to think. The courage and strength to fight through that is what you will find in this song.
Madness in Me
The last of the angry songs on the album. If you’re familiar with Skillet at all, this song mirrors “Monster” lyrically, but the sound of it is more Invincible-Alien Youth status. For those of you who don’t know what that means at all, Invincible-Alien Youth was their transition from the 90s to the 00s, and they were dabbling in electronic work, with the bleached hair and the leather outfits and all that good stuff… Oh, man, I hope they laugh when they look at those pictures because they looked so silly. But I still love them.
The last song, as well, with an interlude, this is where the character starts to turn to God for guidance and help. Now, for those of you who aren’t Christian, don’t fear — Skillet is far from preachy. If you know the songs are about God, you know, but if you didn’t know, they sound like nothing more than well-crafted love songs. I mean, with a band touring with the likes of Papa Roach, Slipknot, Three Days Grace, Breaking Benjamin, etc… Obviously they’re not too in your face about it. Regardless, as far as the album goes, this is the last really really upbeat song before they start to get into the beautifully written love ballads to come.
Jen takes lead on a song! Jen takes lead on a song! Goodness gracious, this woman’s voice is like melting honey within whipped cream and putting it on the freshest batch of strawberries, then layering that on some angel food cake, topped with some caramel and chocolate. I don’t even think that captures how beautiful her voice is. This is one of my favorites out of the album, because it’s sung so passionately and beautifully, and so far it’s one of the most played from this album.
Every time I’ve met Jen (which has been quite a few times), I always want to tell her she’s only allowed to sing to me. But then she talks in the British accent and I get confused.
Fire and Fury
I was excited about this song at first, and then I heard it was a power ballad, and I didn’t think that a song entitled “Fire and Fury” should be slow…
And it was like my ears were reborn.
Another John/Jen duet, mixed by Korey to be very key-heavy and soft. Korey’s the most alternative of the group, and she’s a master at this kind of music. With lyrics like “Destiny’s got a hold on me, guess I never knew love like love knows me,” and “Let it all fall down to dust, can’t break the two of us,” this ballad is both powerful and engaging. If you like to sing along to music like I do, then this song is your perfect choice. I do believe the background of the song displays some harp action, but I am unsure. They blend the instruments together too well.
All right…I have to be honest. Not my favorite song. It brings back some 90s rock, with a little grungy type of feel to it, but I could live without this song. The thing I do like about this song, though, is part of the theme. You see, Skillet has been around since 1996. Since then, they have dabbled in electro, soft rock, grunge, instrumental rock, all sorts of stuff. This CD, they mixed everything they’d ever experimented in and put it all together. For that purpose, I like this song because it brings it back. Apart from that, part of me feels like it just doesn’t really fit with this CD. I’m just keeping it real.
Although, I do like their shout out to “Amazing Grace.” Because I like John singing that.
Hard to Find
The piano in this song fills me with such joy. It would have been cool if this was a John/Jen duet, but the poor girl has to drum when they play these songs live, and she can only do so much singing in between jamming out on the drums. This is a “lighter” song (you know, the one that everyone puts the lighter up to during the concerts — well, cell phones nowadays), and it’s a nice slow down. On the original CD, this is the second to last song leading into the finale, but on the deluxe edition, this acts as a nice segue into the final songs. If you’re gonna go, you might as well go all out and get the deluxe edition because those three songs make the CD. But I’ll get to that.
The opening to this song is pretty much how I feel. “Turned on the TV yesterday, so much pain bleeding through I had to look away. But inside me the picture’s just the same.” It focuses on our inner self as much as the outer world. We are part of this world, after all. And we can’t make a change within it until we make the change within ourselves first.
What I Believe
Ahh, epic violins, how you fill me with such joy. Skillet knows how to make a fast song sound slow, while at the same time making a slow song fast. That’s what they do with this song. It starts fast, the verse is fast, but then the chorus kind of slows down, but is still upbeat at the same time. Have I confused you yet? Don’t blame me, blame the masterminds behind it. This is another John/Jen duet, and every time they sing together a smile is brought to my face. Those two…Those two. Man. They got lucky finding each other, I tell you. (Voice-wise. John’s married to Korey, and they’re like…the perfect family.)
“So madly, desperate, deeply I will live for you completely.”
When Jen sings that I just want to cry out of joy. Her voice is addicting…
THE HARPS! THE HARPS ARE PLAYING!
I’ve never heard a rock band use harps before. And it makes me so happy. If anyone could figure out a way to pull it off, it would be Skillet. They’re too amazing for words, honestly. (I say as I’m sitting on 2411 for this review…and here I was saying I’d try to keep it short….)
This is such a good anthem, honestly. As far as storyline purposes go, if I were in control, this would be the last song on the CD. Because I think this would be a good way to end it. But, alas, I don’t rule the world. “I believe we can’t lose, even mountains will move. It’s my faith, it’s my life, this is our battlecry.”
Skillet tends to not play their deluxe edition songs live, but I really hope they reconsider for this one…
Everything Goes Black
For the first time…ever…my favorite Skillet song from a CD is a slow one. This song…gets me. I don’t think I have ever fallen in love with a ballad as fast as I did with this song. By the end of it, I was in tears, addicted, and it’s been on repeat a few times. I never pick the slow songs for my favorite, because I’m more of an upbeat kinda guy…But goodness gracious this song is perfect. John and Jen could not be more quintessential for each other. I know I say that a lot, and I talk about their compatible voices, but this song is the reason they work together, and the reason I love this band so much. Listen, for real (if you’ve made it this far in the review.)
If you didn’t think that was beautiful, I don’t know what to say to you. Ha. Again, if I could have rearranged this to fit the story, I would say it should go between “Salvation” and “Fire and Fury.” Just saying.
This is the story of my life. Story wise, this would have been perfect between “Not Gonna Die” and “Circus for a Psycho”, but it’s a good way to end the CD. They dabbled in some of their electro stuff again, and it was a nice ending. The drums are pretty intense in this song, and this is the one you just jump around to at the concert. Grab all your friends and mosh, because this is one that speaks to everyone.
“Welcome to the freakshow, this is where the freaks go.”
We’re all freaks, am I right?
Well, if you’re still hanging on, thank you for reading. If I haven’t convinced you to go buy this CD, I really don’t know what to say to you. You’re the one missing out 😉