Mike’s Mini Music Review – Skillet’s “Awake”

I have to admit – I was a little worried about Awake. Skillet’s last album, Comatose, was a gigantic hit in the Christian music community, and I figured it was inevitable that the followup album was going to be a letdown.

It turns out I was completely wrong. This record delivers. It’s fabulous. Great melodic guitar rock. Fun harmonies. Powerful songs. (I dare you to listen to “Lucy” and not get teary-eyed.) I haven’t stopped listening to it since Tuesday. It’s easily my favourite album of 2009.

Judging from other reviews I’ve read, for the very few who don’t like Awake, the big complaint is that it’s Comatose II – that Skillet hasn’t grown as a band or changed their style or whatnot.

In many ways, Awake picks right up where Comatose leaves off, but so what? Skillet has figured out the formula of big arena rock with guitars, keyboards and strings, and 1980s-style power ballads, and they make it work for them. I happen to enjoy that formula a lot, so I’m perfectly happy with Awake. Ecstatic, even.

Which is not to say that Skillet has entirely duplicated Comatose. The biggest change on Awake is the addition of new drummer Jen Ledger to the vocal line-up, singing both backup and supporting lead vocals on songs, which is a definite upgrade to Skillet’s overall package.

Not only is there not a bad song on the entire album, the first half of Awake is among the strongest string of songs I’ve ever heard on any record. And given the album’s lyrical emphasis on real-life situations (love, loss, forgiveness, bad relationships, etc.), songs like “Don’t Wake Me”, “One Day Too Late” and “Forgiven” would not be out of place as soundtrack songs on any number of teen or young-adult dramas. And “Hero” would make an excellent action movie trailer song.

OK, there are some nitpicky things. For instance, the fact that the line “My voice will be heard today” gets repeated during the second verse of “Hero” bugs me and strikes me as lazy lyric writing. And if I had done the arrangements on “Alive and Awake” I would have tweaked the chorus just a bit.

But, again, it’s nitpicking. I don’t have enough superlatives for Awake. This album is tremendous. Five stars. 10 out of 10. Highest recommendation. Just go buy it.

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