Album Review: Skillet - Victorious: The Aftermath Posted September 09, 2020 By JJFrancesco_NRT, Staff Reviewer
What You Need To Know
Deluxe Editions of Skillet albums have become par for the course. Dating all the way to Collide, every album has either been re-released as or co-released with a version featuring extra songs. When the very first song Skillet played live in advance of Victorious called "Dead Man Walking" ended up not making the final tracklisting, fans immediately knew we were in for another "Deluxe Edition" of some sort to come about a year after the new album released.
Sure enough, here we are about 13 months since Victorious blasted onto the scene and Victorious: The Aftermath is ready to keep the victory coming. (Which, if I may say, is the best name yet I've seen for a Deluxe Edition.) The album's 12-track listing is expanded to 20 with three new songs and five alternate versions of popular cuts from the standard listing.
What It Sounds Like
"Dead Man Walking" translates well to the studio. Those who've heard the live videos floating around YouTube likely know what to expect. The song is a classic Skillet amp-up rocker that will certainly become a workout jam for many. "Sick and Empty" is probably the standout of the new tracks, offering an electric number that juxtaposes laid back verses against a rocking chorus to rousing success. This definitely has fan favorite written all over it. It was already a favorite of Ledger's, who had expressed disappointment it wasn't included in the album's standard release.
The previously released "Dreaming of Eden" is a terrific anthem that balances the ballad and rocker sensibilities into one of the band's catchiest songs to date. It also makes a great theme song to the band's graphic novel series.
The reimagined songs that make up the other new inclusions will likely be more polarizing to fans. While "Legendary" gets a bit of a standard remix treatment, several of the album's rockers get turned into piano ballads. The title track gets a cinematic version that highlights its melodic strengths. The previously released "Save Me (Reimagined)" offers a slow-building epic ballad take on the piano rocker that highlights the song's emotive core. But, perhaps the standout of the bunch is the "Reach (Falling Deep Mix)." A stark departure from the original's aggressive rock structure, this version is pure haunting piano ballad, with Ledger taking over a whole verse of the song, adding in a whole new layer of meaning to the words. This was stated to be a favored arrangement of Korey Cooper's and one need not listen long to see why. It's quite refreshing to see a song that is billed as a reimagining actually come out drastically different than its original. While the original was a favorite of mine on Victorious, I cannot deny that this version is also one of my top picks of this whole collection.
The single "Terrify The Dark (Reimagined)" closes out the project. And, while the song is still a strong ballad, one will need to listen closely to catch the subtle differences in the mixing between this and the original. In contrast to the drastic changes, some of the other remixes underwent, many listeners may come away a bit disappointed that there weren't a few more risks taken to differentiate this version from its original album arrangement.
For those craving new Skillet, The Aftermath delivers in spades.
Some of the new cuts on The Aftermath probe some meatier spiritual waters than the standard Skillet pump-up or "man versus society" anthem. While "Dead Man Walking" fits nicely into the themes blazed by "Reach" or "Back to Life," "Sick and Empty" digs deeper. Exploring themes of self-loathing over one's sinfulness, the song serves as one of the darker entries of Skillet's catalogue, while still offering hope. Standout lyrics include, "I don't deserve Your tears/Or to be happy here/This ended when You gave Yourself to me."
"Dreaming of Eden" sings of the joy and reward we will find when we get to heaven and are free from our sinful state.
"Reach (Falling Deep Mix)"
For Fans Of
Red, Thousand Foot Krutch, Seventh Day Slumber
The new material on The Aftermath is mostly strong additions to the Skillet cannon. Fans would do well to add these new tracks to their streaming and download playlists. These new cuts will likely cement themselves as an integral part of the Victorious legacy. Those jaded by re-releases are unlikely to be moved by the bonus material, whereas those of us still clinging to the charm of physical copies will have to weigh whether or not the new inclusions merit a repurchase. Regardless of one's feelings on the idea of Deluxe Editions, The Aftermath offers enough new content to give Skillet fans something to ease the sting of a rough 2020 and hold us over until we can get another full-length project from one of the most iconic bands in the business.