Review Summary: If only other reviewers would "awaken" from the doldrums of "Awake", this album offers significantly more effort and substance than the previous platinum album. Here's a fair shake.
In the world of Christian Rock albums, the term "Platinum" is scarce, and that may be either due to the band's devotion to it's message as opposed to it's success, or a non-interest in popularity. Skillet is one of the bands that enjoys both message and multitude, and has done so for 11 years. It's safe to say many reviewers will make the claim that a good Skillet is one that keeps evolving, or roughly putting it, A Skillet that sounds like Skillet doesn't cut it anymore.
Now, everyone, Panheads and regular rock aficionados alike, knows the only strengths in Skillet's previous album "Awake" were the singles. The radio tunes that would eat at your head with catchy lyrics and the staple tracks performed at concerts. "Rise" does have much of the same, but the accompanying tracks (i.e. What I Believe, Hard to Find, Madness In Me, etc.), when listened to by a prepared listener, offer something just a tad different than preceding tracks such as Lucy.
After holding serve along side The Black Keys' "El Camino" and Mumford and Son's "Babel", the band actually tried to do better than it has before to spread it's message of love and offer a solution to the tumultuous world of teenagers today. It (albeit during the recording process) attempted to create a concept with all of it's tracks, encouraging listeners to bite at all 12 - 15 tracks depending on the album they bought, and one thing that is hard to deny unless you didn't give the band a chance before opening the album is this.
It's much better than Awake.
Over the last four years, Skillet acquired guitarist Seth Morrison to the fold, and his part in the album is noticeable in tracks such as Circus For a Psycho, Rise, Madness In Me, Freakshow, Sick Of It, and Not Gonna Die.
The ballads the track offers (Fire and Fury, Hard to Find) provide now-common, and still effective call and responses from John Cooper and either wife Korey or drummer Jen Ledger, who is featured more than prior efforts, but also features new instrumentation, with dulcimer and mandolin easily identified by ear.
The story of a teenager coming to age does often get lost due to either enjoyment or confusion during some tracks, and while American Noise and Good To Be Alive are heartland filigrees, they don't seem to be as effective to the listener as the band would hope for. Is it different however? For a band that makes it's bread and butter off of power chords and ballads, it is a step in the right direction, and this group has proven it has the fortitude to continue making music, regardless of the effects of an album that may not deserve to be platinum.
If this one ends up having the same fate, the argument can be made that his album does, in fact, have the stuff to claim that title. It just takes an open mind.