Review by Andy Hawes for MPM
The arrival of a new Skillet album is always a major event in my world and with this new album, Dominion, Skillet prove that they have lost none of the power, aggression and melody that has graced their albums since their inception.
Christian Hard Rock is a tough genre to work in. The artists clearly feel called to uncompromisingly bring their faith to the music, which, as a Christian myself, I totally understand. But at the same time, they have to be wary of alienating the secular listening public, the vast majority of whom will not share much (if any) of their faith. I personally believe that Skillet get this absolutely right every single time and in this Dominion is no different.
Skillet have always written their songs to the disenfranchised, the lonely, the broken and the lost. Their lyrics often hit home quite hard, but at the same time are always drenched with the beauty of eternal hope and it is this message of hope that prevails massively within the colossal melodic Modern Hard Rock grooves of Dominion.
As the band themselves say in the release day promotional post on their Facebook page, “This record is all about the celebration of freedom, a liberation from fear – to be who we want to be, say what we want to say, believe what we want to believe. We hope this record makes you feel empowered, inspired, and ready to rock!“ At a time when the world continues to labour under the burden of fear from a global pandemic, where the threat of climate emergency is becoming all too real and where military tensions between East and West in Europe are becoming more tangible by the day, this is a message that many of us are only to ready to hear!
Opening with first single ‘Surviving The Game’, Skillet set their stall out in no uncertain fashion. Truth to tell, there’s not a lot new under the sun going on here: if you’re already a Skillet fan, you’ll bask in the glory of the pummelling down-tuned guitars and powerful melodies, revelling in the superb dual vocals of John Cooper and Jen Ledger at this colossal anthem of empowerment – “I can be unstoppable, Gonna be indestructible!” Cooper bellows at the end of the gargantuan chorus and you really feel like you can stand in the eye of the storm with him as he screams the lyrics over the thunderous riffs.
All of which leads us nicely into the mid-paced menace of ‘Standing In The Storm’ which makes brilliant use of dynamics in the ‘quiet/loud’ approach.
The chorus of this one is powerful enough to level mountains and send the demons of the dark running squealing to mummy! The combination of enormous riffs, power chords and delicate electronica that have for some while been a Skillet trademark is perfect here and the dual vocal works brilliantly too.
Title track ‘Dominion’ follows with an incredibly heavy staccato and adrenaline-fuelled riff . Lyrically, this one seems to be about rebelling against the empire of evil within the world and standing strong for all that is light and good. Once again, a vocal chant hammers home the chorus hook and lead guitarist Seth Morrison impresses mightily with a ferocious shredding solo in this hugely anthemic Hard Rock track.
You’d be forgiven for expecting the cheerfully named ‘Valley of Death’ to be another thunderous slice of Hard Rock, so it’s quite surprising when it opens with a beautiful piano and orchestral string-led passage and proceeds in the same vein. It’s a beautiful song, full of aching melody and delicate dynamics as the strings swell and sigh behind the hooklines before the drums and power chords finally kick in midway through. It’s an absolutely stunning ballad from a band who excel at stunning ballads.
‘Beyond Incredible’ continues in the anthemic vein of the opening tracks, cleverly combining mid-paced and uptempo sections. Actually, as I’m writing this I’m noticing that I’m using the word ‘anthem’ or ‘anthemic’ an awful lot and there’s a reason for that: this whole album is one long anthem! These songs are screaming to be played at ear-splitting volume from arena stages the world over. ‘Beyond Incredible’ is quite simply an awesome track, making you want to punch the air, bang your head furiously and scream the hookline at the top of your lungs.
‘Destiny’ continues the anthemic theme. Drummer Jen Ledger’s vocal is more prevalent in this track, both dueling with Cooper’s lead vocal and harmonising beautifully with him in the gargantuan hyper-melodic chorus.
‘Refuge’ brings us back to the pop-ballad style that Skillet have explored on past albums (think ‘Stars’ from 2016’s Unleashed.) The chorus to this track is melodic perfection.
The beauty and simplicity of the melody is quite heart-rendingly beautiful and the pop-styled production provides the perfect counter to the bombastic Hard Rock that’s gone before while also seeming totally at home within the flow of the album.
The lyric to this one is incredibly powerful – as someone who has been through some challenges recently, I found this song massively uplifting and played it on repeat when it was released as a single recently. Skillet just seem to have that knack of hitting home with the lyrics – it’s like they’ve been there themselves and are writing it just for you.
Skillet return us to their anthemic Hard Rock sound with ‘Shout Your Freedom’. It’s amazing how they can combine massive riffs with chord progressions that in lesser hands would sound utterly cheesy and create such stunning tracks. Hook after hook punctuates this massive slice of uplifting hard edged Power-Pop. There’s even a harmony guitar solo in this one (as if it needed any more hooks!) Awesome stuff!
‘Destroyer’ is a complete left-turn from ‘Shout Your Freedom’. It has an almost Nu-Metal sounding riff under the verses before the huge chorus hits home with all the subtlety of a nuclear strike. I love the way that they do this – just when you think you know what to expect, they throw that little bit of a curve-ball in. Very clever, very well-written and the production/arrangement is outstanding.
‘Forever or The End’ returns us to the more typical sound and style we’d have expected from Skillet’s mid-paced and lighter material.
But even though it’s more familiar-sounding, still the beauty of the melodies takes you by surprise. This is another one where Jen Ledger’s vocal is front and centre alongside Cooper’s and she sounds the best I’ve ever heard her on this quite beautiful mid-paced ballad.
Her voice sounds more pure and less effected than it usually does and is the better for it. More delicate electronica and orchestration punctuates this track quite beautifully; the production and arrangement on this album really is something else.
‘Ignite’ is another big Hard Rocker in a similar vein to the opening few tracks, before the album ends with the curve-ball of ‘White Horse’. Almost rapped vocals, with loads of effects lead into an electronica-led piece that is very different from what has gone before. However, it does feel like the perfect closing track to the album, which appears to my ears to very loosely reference the sort of events that occur in the Book of Revelation. It’s a powerful end to a colossal album.
Phew!! This is a truly MONSTER album from one of the VERY best Modern hard Rock Bands out there at the moment. I know that I’m a fan, but that fact notwithstanding, I honestly think it’s one of the best albums I’ve heard in months and I’ve listened to a lot of VERY good stuff lately.
This album is everything you’d want from something of its ilk; it’s mightily powerful, hugely melodic and the production is pretty much perfect. The standard of song writing is extremely high throughout and all band members put in incredible performances. The electronica and orchestration by Korey Cooper must also be acknowledged; she has done a monumental job of this on this whole album and the balance between these elements and the traditional hard rocking guitars is pretty much perfect.
If you’re already a Skillet fan, you’ll probably already have bought this. If you haven’t, please rectify that immediately! If you’re more of a casual listener or if you’ve not heard the band before, I urge you to rectify this forthwith, as this album represents a brilliant band at the height of their creativity and at the very top of their game. Absolutely 100% bloody brilliant!!! In fact it’s so good that I’m heading off to play it yet again for the umpteenth time today – VERY LOUDLY!!!
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