NRT Associate Editor and longtime Panhead Mary Nikkel offers her predictions for which tracks from the upcoming Skillet album will rock.
If you're a Christian music fan who has any kind of access to the internet, radio, or the friendship of a "Panhead," it's near impossible to have missed the news: Skillet will be releasing their first album in over three years on August 5. The first two singles from Unleashed dropped this month, showcasing two very different ends of the Skillet musical spectrum. "Feel Invincible" offers up Seth Morrison's gritty guitar style paired with Korey Cooper's electronic programming genius, while "Stars" harkens back to Skillet circa 2000 with a worshipful bent and slick production ready for AC radio. These initial singles, alongside a few tantalizing teaser clips shared to frontman John Cooper's instagram, have created a storm of fan speculation as diehard Panheads and casual listeners alike try to determine exactly how much rock and roll they're going to get with Unleashed.
As a Panhead for nearly a decade myself, I'd like to throw my own light-hearted projections in the ring, based primarily on my non-committal, unreliable gut feelings. However the tracks shake out, for this listener one thing is certain: whether creating blistering punch-in-the-gut arena rock tracks or mellow, worshipful ballads, Skillet continues to be one of the most skilled and vital voices in our industry today.
1. "Feel Invincible" - A Rocker
A quick look at Facebook comments on any posting of this already-released-song will quickly prove that there is some disagreement about whether or not this is, in fact, a rocker. But as far as I'm concerned, the chugging guitar riffs in the first 10 seconds seal the deal.
2. "Back From the Dead" - Rocker
I'm cheating with this one since it's a song John has teased on Instagram. Unless those riffs quickly melt into angelic synths, we have another rocker on our hands.
3. "Stars" - Radio-Friendly Ballad
This worshipful track has the fingerprints of radio hit-writing king Seth Mosley all over it. The producer partnered with the band to draw out a side more worshipful than anything we've seen since the Alien Youth days.
4. "I Want to Live" - Rocker With Electronic Elements
Here's where I venture into uncharted territory. Maybe it's because I can see these words chanted alongside pumping fists. Maybe it's because this title somehow reminds me of something Avicii would do. Regardless, my gut instinct on this is 100 percent chance of rock, 50 percent chance of electronic.
5. "Undefeated" - Rocker
Picture this: There's another Rocky movie to follow up 2015's smash hit Creed. The filmmakers are desperately in need of a walkout song. Lights go down, the movie's hero is illuminated in silhouette... and suddenly John Cooper's vocals are melting faces as he declares that the champion is "Undefeated." That's how this goes down in my head.
6. "Famous" - Zydeco Rumbler... or Radio Ballad to Enjoy with Mom
As every youth group kid from the past two decades knows, there are few rallying cries more widely used than variations on the phrase "we want to make God famous." And if this is going to be a proper youth group anthem, it needs to be something the moms would approve of when they get stuck chaperoning the lock in.
7. "Lions" - Radio Ballad
Daniel and the lion's den, the Lion of Judah imagery: lions instantly evoke Biblical imagery. So this one has to be youth group approved as well. I also may or may not be rooting for the whole band to ride out on stage on actual lions when they perform this one (they built a massive animatronic monster for Awake, so surely this could happen too, right? ...Right?).
8. "Out of Hell" - Rockin' Rocktronica
OK, so here's another one where I'm cheating thanks to John's instagram habits. Notice here the same blend of hefty guitar tones and electronic texture that we find on "Feel Invincible." This could be the signature sound for Unleashed.
9. "Burn it Down" - Rocker or Surprise Pop Song
Because if you title a song "Burn it Down" and then don't have epic shreddage occurring, you're doing it wrong. This track is clearly custom made for Skillet's pyro treatment, but then again we could be fooled and it ends up being the first pop-tinged song led completely by Jen Ledger.
10. "Watching for Comets" - Ballad
"From underneath the trees, we watch the sky, confusing stars for satellites..." Oh wait, that's Nickelback. But clearly, as that much-panned 2005 radio hit establishes, songs about stargazing lend themselves to the ballad format.
11. "Saviors of the World" - Epic Arena Rocker
I really, really hope this is basically an updated version of Queen's "Princes of the Universe." And if it is, it couldn't not have sick guitar riffs, and possibly a solo.
12. "The Resistance:" Rocker With Electronic and Symphonic Elements
Ahhh, the finale: a bittersweet moment of closure for fans. I expect that this will be a rocker but just barely, falling somewhere in the realm of empowerment anthem. If the strings fans came to know and love on the past three records make an appearance, I predict it will be here (because every good finale needs the feels that only a string section can provide).
Feel free to join the conversation and offer your counter projections in the comments below!
Associate Editor Mary Nikkel’s love for writing, photography, videography and rock and roll have all been bound together by her love for Jesus, leading to her role with NRT. Her favorite things include theology and Greek language studies, her math grad student husband, obscure Nashville coffee shops, all things related to the work of J.R.R. Tolkien and pushing the boundaries enacted by societal norms.
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