‘Victorious’ album review

Image courtesy of Atlantic Records

album: Victorious
artist: Skillet
genre: hard rock
release date: August 2, 2019
star rating: three out of five

review by Levi Yager

Skillet’s new album has arrived, and it’s brimming with their explosive brand of rock. Victorious displays many of the band’s strengths – albeit with occasional weaknesses present. Yet, I can say with confidence that the album has more going for it than against it.

First up, “Legendary” is the loud, flashy opener, and it’s just OK. The rhythmic qualities stand out thanks to staccato guitar parts and lively drums, but the lyrics are essentially a bunch of clichés strung together. The energy’s there, but the artistry is lacking. It’s not a terrible start to Victorious, but it could’ve been better.

Speaking of improvement, the album does improve with the next few tracks. “You Ain’t Ready,” the second song, isn’t necessarily one of the best Skillet songs out there, but it does well enough to stick in the listener’s mind more than others on Victorious. The contrast between the verses and the chorus in “You Ain’t Ready” at least make it more interesting than “Legendary.”

“Victorious” follows as the third song. It’s a classic Skillet-style anthem, complete with a high-flying chorus sung by frontman John Cooper and pensive verses from vocalist and drummer Jen Ledger. “Victorious” doesn’t quite reach the uppermost levels of excellency that the band is capable of, but it’s still an album highlight and is fitting as the title track.

The next song is “This Is The Kingdom.” I personally like this song, but it may take some warming up to for many Skillet fans. Its greatest aspect has to do with the punchy verses that give the song a unique feel. I’d say, regardless of how this track comes off to you at first, it’s one that gets better after multiple listens.

At the peak of the upward swing, “Save Me” saves the day as the best song on the record. It’s less of a proclamatory song – like many of the other songs are – and brings some darker colors and themes into play. On top of the different approach, “Save Me” also contains an awesome bridge with a sweet guitar solo. It’s simply Skillet at their finest.

And then things begin to roll downhill. The first sign of inadequacy is “Rise Up.” This song isn’t all that bad, but it does nothing to keep the record fresh here. Even worse, it’s now the third song by Skillet about rising; see the title track from their album Rise, and check out “The Resistance” from their previous record Unleashed where John literally sings, “This is how we rise up” in the chorus. So you can’t avoid the been-there-done-that feeling if you listened to Skillet’s last couple albums. On the plus side, the drumming’s pretty great in “Rise Up,” but that fact isn’t enough to redeem a track that’s basically beating a dead horse.

The first soft song is number seven, “Terrify The Dark.” It has good lyrics, but its musicality is fairly by-the-numbers. This is one that will inevitably be scooped up by Christian radio stations, which typically only play Skillet’s softer cuts these days anyway. Thankfully, we get a superior soft song with the 10th track, “Anchor.” Its poignant piano and delicate strings provide the perfect nuance, and the palpable emotion in the vocals helps elevate the song to be a standout. The lyrics are about being held fast to God, with John singing, “You are my anchor, so steady me, steady me now.”

The 12th and final track, “Back To Life,” is fine, but it doesn’t really leave a resonating impact as the last song. Fans may still enjoy it, though, if only for being a little heavier than some of the earlier cuts on the album. It’s worth noting that “Back To Life” has an end-of-song jam, which is cool, but they did that with the final track on their previous LP as well; it’s not as much of a surprise this time around.

All in all, Victorious has my recommendation. It’s a well-balanced, cohesive effort that effectively blends the band’s different sounds involving strings, electronics and keys. Add to that razor-sharp drumming throughout, and you have a solid record with Victorious. It isn’t their highest-quality release for sure, but it’s far from a failure. In the end, Skillet succeeds where they always have: making brazen rock tunes with maximum headbanging potential.

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