Review Summary: Skillet take a leap of faith towards more mainstream popularity but ultimately miss the target.
Skillet is a band that has always the shown potential to create something unique but unfortunately almost always seems to miss the mark. Whether you look at their average post-grunge beginnings to their misguided industrial phase, the band has never seemed to been able to pull it together to make the great record they’ve always had the potential to. That was, until 2006. Comatose
was an interesting combination of symphonic elements and hook-driven mainstream rock that became one of the first albums I ever truly loved. Every song was of high quality, the hooks worked, and the string arrangements felt like an important part of the song rather than a gimmick that was simply tacked on. Unfortunately, fans looking for a quality follow-up will be disappointed. Awake
is filled to the brim with filler material, uninteresting songwriting, and ultimately feels devoid of any life. Skillet strips this record of almost all of the things that made past release worthwhile and instead takes a misguided leap of faith towards reaching a greater fan base.
The first thing Skillet screws themselves over with is the ballads. No matter which phase of their career, previous releases brought forth quality softer tracks which were always memorable and enjoyable. Unfortunately almost all of the ballads on Awake
feel about as lifeless and manufactured as the latest Hinder or Nickelback single. Embellishing themselves in every cliché known to man, the ballads are incredibly predictable and completely stale. The worst part is that for whatever reason the band decided to fill half the disc with these boring, corporate-created snooze-fests.
With the reduced emphasis on the strings and instrumental component of the band this time around, more focus is put on vocalist John Cooper. On Comatose, John felt like he had comfortably found a voice that suits him, and while not being the most interesting vocalist on the planet, he rarely struggled to hit a note he couldn’t quite reach or wrote a bad melody. On Awake
however, he rarely sounds at ease with his voice. Frequently trying to reach notes he is unable to, he often winds up making the choruses almost cringe-worthy rather than the large and memorable affair they should be. John’s lyrical abilities have also taken a noticeable decline. While his past work wasn’t exactly poetry, Collide
showed signs of vastly improved lyrics. Themes of past efforts revolved around society, struggling with his faith, and being the light of the world and leading by example. Yet on this album, Skillet seems content making sure to include every possible over-used metaphor. The lyrics are as uninteresting and predictable as one could imagine. Songs range from feeling like a monster (complete with dull shout-along choruses!) to feeling sorry (almost all the ballads).
While the album rarely pulls itself out its self-imposed state of mediocrity, there are a few parts worth noting. Album opener “Hero” features a one of the band’s catchiest choruses to date. “Awake and Alive” brings the powerful string arrangements to the table in a style similar to that of Comatose. Album closer “Lucy” is a humble track dedicated to a lost loved-one in which Mr. Cooper actually succeeds at sounding genuinely remorseful and is both powerful and moving. Unfortunately for Skillet, three solid tracks out of twelve just doesn’t cut it. There just isn’t nearly enough substance here to make this album anything remotely enjoyable. Whether you like Skillet or not, Awake
is an album you will most likely want to avoid. Awake sounds like a cop-out for more mainstream appeal rather than the true follow up to Comatose