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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews


  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2003 1 Nov
Sounds like … melodic hard rock and modern metal in the same style as Bush, Metallica, Nickelback, Jonah33, and FuelAt a glance … fans of the band's softer material will shy away from this very loud album, but the matured heavy rock will endear Skillet to serious metal-heads and perhaps even mainstream audiences.

It's interesting to note Skillet has never recorded any of their six albums in the same style since their 1996 debut. All projects remain true to the band's sound, since lead singer and bassist John Cooper has always been the principal songwriter, yet each release has played with different genres: modern rock, industrial, techno/electronica, worship, and even unplugged acoustic. Part of it stems from an ever-changing lineup, which finally seems to have settled on the one established with 2001's Alien Youth: John's wife Korey (keyboards), Ben Kasica (guitars), and Lori Peters (drums). It's also been interesting to watch Skillet develop such a strong and loyal following while mixing their repertoire of intense rockers ("Vapor," "Kill Me, Heal Me") with modern pop ballads ("More Faithful," "You Are My Hope").

The first impression when listening to Collide is loud. That's always been true of Skillet, but this time they're really really loud. Produced by Paul Ebersold (3 Doors Down, Sister Hazel), the album is a fusion of Skillet's melodic sensibilities with hardcore rock and classic metal. The electronic and pop elements have been downplayed considerably in favor of Kasica's explosive guitars and Cooper's intense shrieks (his vocals reach new heights in both singing and screaming). If you prefer Skillet's softer songs, Collide is not your album. Even I had trouble initially accepting such an intense album from the band.

While Skillet may lose some of their pop-inclined audience, they're likely to gain increased credibility among serious metal-heads. Collide demonstrates a new maturity in sound and songwriting. More than ever, they sound like a credible hard rock band. Lyrically, they rely less on gimmicky words, geared specifically for a youth group, and more on powerful emotions and ideas that teens and adults can equally appreciate.

Take the opening track "Forsaken," a plea of brokenness combining guilt and pain with comfort and hope. It does a nice job balancing Skillet's two sonic extremes, relying largely on metal guitar bombast, but also briefly stripping down to guitar and piano for the prayerful lyric, "Take my pain and numb me from this." All of that is equally true of the title track, which beautifully arranges strings against electronic-tinged hard rock. "Collide" wonderfully sums up a Christian's mixed emotions of fear and faith: "There's something deep inside that keeps my faith alive/When all you can do is hide from the fear that's deep inside of you/Something … to hold me close when I don't know." You could view the album's popular first single, "Savior," as a response to that fear and brokenness—a melodic sonic explosion written from Christ's perspective as a call for change and surrender.

The album's intensity rarely lets up. "My Obsession" is driving and powerful in its message of making Christ our focus, rather than our own selfish and fleeting desires. "Fingernails" paints a vivid picture of brokenness and clawing toward peace, and "Imperfection" is equally bold in its struggle with self-acceptance. There are a couple of melodic rock anthems suitable for Christian Hit Radio, and not surprisingly, they happen to be the tracks Korey Cooper co-wrote with John—"A Little More" and "Under My Skin." Still, both are aggressive in the chorus, raising the decibel level considerably from previous hit singles.

Can Skillet distinguish itself from similar sounding bands? In some ways they do, but the industrial electronica elements of their past albums made them that much more unique in the Christian music industry. With heavy guitars dominating the sound, they're now more similar than ever to other bands, most notably Bush, Metallica, and Nickelback. You almost wish Collide were released two or three years ago when the neo-classic metal style seemed a little fresher. Also, the album seems to run out of ideas by the end. "Energy" sounds like a rehash of lyrics from earlier songs on Collide, and "Cycle Down" seems a reiteration of "Savior" in message and perspective.

Collide is nonetheless a strong effort—just not one for the faint of heart. The beauty of it is that it will appeal to serious hard rock fans, and potentially reach mainstream audiences with a more subtle and creatively worded approach to communicating the gospel than their previous efforts.