In 2006, Skillet released their immensely popular and successful album Comatose. Along with the perfection of their live shows and the addition of a new drummer, Skillet's popularity grew more and more. With a new fan base and a new energy, their latest endeavor, Awake, attempts to build on that success. Having been known for not duplicating their sound with their previous records but still maintaining a basic foundation, Awake follows too in-step with Comatose. Comatose was such a transformation from the much harder Collide. Even the album titles Awake and Comatose suggest the albums are meant to be a tandem. That being said, Skillet has never truly duplicated themselves before. Hey You I Love Your Soul, Invincible and Alien Youth had similar elements but never were carbon copies of each other, but more of a progression and maturity.
"Hero" opens up Awake with a solid intro but immediately after hearing the vocals and the lyrics it's evident that the aim for this album is a much younger audience than the one that grew up listening to them. The most obvious change is the addition of Jen's vocals, which add a certain layer to the song, but also take away from the serious tone that Korey Cooper offered in the past. "Monster," a song about struggling with sin, follows with a heavier guitar, but the polished effects make it hard to fully embrace. The lyrics also make the topic difficult to take seriously especially with an extremely odd distorted "monstrous" vocal effect singing "...I feel like a monster..." near the end of the song.
"Don't Wake Me" is a near duplicate of "Yours To Hold" from Comatose and is the first rock ballad (of many) on Awake. "Awake and Alive" opens with a strong strings section, similar to the song "Comatose," while Jen's vocals on the pre-chorus shine and mix well with John Cooper's leads. The string arrangements are a reassuring sign that their live shows will still maintain the same energy and captivating performances that over thirteen years of performing have brought. "One Day too Late" is another generic rock ballad that sings about resolutions that should have been made yesterday and feels much like "Don't Wake Me."
"It's Not Me It's You" is an angry song about a break-up with a good tempo but falls into the stereotypical relationship-angst laden genre with some unimpressive lyrics. "Let's get the story straight you are a poison, flooding through my veins, you're driving me insane..." are brutally honest, but ultimately sound cliché. "Should've When You Could've" is another cliché ridden song about missing out on love. "Believe," a late addition to the track roster of Awake almost feels like an outcast from a musical standpoint. Vocally, it's feels more like a b-side off Collide, but yet maintains enough of that "angry relationship song" feel to fit in here.
"Forgiven" is a highlight, but is still something that we've heard before. This song about redemption is the closest Skillet gets to a spiritually heavy song, with subtle strings throughout but heavier in the appropriate places. The song is directed towards the listener when Cooper sings "You have forgiven" about God's mercy. "Sometimes" is another highlight, which opens heavier and stays heavier throughout. Ben's guitar solo also has a crisp feel. "Never Surrender" opens like an epic sound, but still feels familiar. It follows up the theme on "Sometimes" and "Forgiven" with the three tracks working really well together. "Lucy" closes out the album in a slow fashion, but on a downer about a girl named Lucy who has passed away. It's a sweet song albeit sorrowful, and closes out on a different note with John singing, "Hey Lucy, I remember your name."
As a whole, Awake is camping on the doorstep of its predecessor. As a sequel, it doesn't live up to Comatose and due to it's extreme proximity style-wise, it is lackluster at best and on the verge of uninteresting. The layout is fragmented into a rock-rock-ballad format throughout and a few songs wear immaturity like a fedora. However, the songs themselves have a higher listenability separate from the whole of the record. On a shuffled playlist they might suffice a longtime fan, but for newbie fans, this should wet the pallet to keep you interested for another record. Ultimately, Awake feels like the sophomore slump that Skillet never had to suffer through and a watered down version of Comatose.- Review date: 8/23/09, written by Kevin Chamberlin of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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