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Beyond the Average
Posted November 17, 2017
By MaryNikkel_NRT, Staff Reviewer

Even if you're one of the highest selling, most critically acclaimed acts in your genre, releasing a deluxe edition is a move that can easily come off as an afterthought-- especially when it comes more than a year after the initial album release. Fortunately, Skillet has never been a band to do anything halfway. When the chance arose to re-release 2016's blazing album Unleashed, rather than phoning it in with low quality demos or acoustic versions, Skillet collected a full five previously unreleased tracks and three remixes. The result is Unleashed Beyond.

The best deluxe editions either complete or add dimension to an original release, and Unleashed Beyond is in that category. The new tracks begin with "Breaking Free," a duet with former Flyleaf singer Lacey Sturm (one of the first true vocal features found on any Skillet album). Stylistically, the song harkens back to a mid-2000s Skillet, with Lacey's superb screams adding a familiar texture towards the end. Thematically, the song is in the same vein as "Awake and Alive" or "I Want to Live." 

New territory continues with "Stay Til the Daylight," a poignant love song that frontman John Cooper penned for his wife, band keyboardist and rhythm guitarist Korey Cooper. This easily could have stood in place of "Watching for Comets" on the original release of Unleashed, as it occupies a similar musical space but is a stronger song by far. "Brave" expands thematically on songs like "Lions" and "Famous," while "You Get Me High" serves as almost a direct sequel to the band's song "Better Than Drugs" from their 2006 album Comatose

The best of the new tracks comes last, with "Set it Off" epitomizing the unabashedly fun vibe that Skillet set out to achieve with Unleashed as a whole. An insanely catchy vocal hook and crunchy guitars show off Skillet at their adrenaline-pumping best.

Three remixes close the project: "Feel Invincible (Y2K Remix)," "The Resistance (SOLI Remix)" and "Stars (Film Version)." The version of "Stars" is soft and cinematic, a result of its inclusion as part of The Shack soundtrack. Surprisingly, the remixes for "Feel Invincible" and "The Resistance" both chose to dial the songs back rather than pumping them up farther. Although both get the job done, there is a sense of waiting for a strong drop that never quite lands.

The Bottom Line: If you haven't bought Skillet's Unleashed yet (or even if you have), this is the version to buy. Unleashed Beyond is well-rounded, dynamic and shows a few new sides of one of the most beloved rock bands of the past two decades. There are certainly places where the new tracks fill the same role as songs on the standard release, making them not entirely necessary, but they're so enjoyable to listen to that Panheads are unlikely to have any complaints. 

Song to Download Now:
"Set it Off" (Get it on iTunes here.)

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