Skillet: best band you’ve (probably) never heard of?

A few of years ago, an online friend, Dr. James White, introduced me to this band called Skillet. He played a couple of their songs on his podcast during an interview with Skillet’s John Cooper, and I enjoyed them quite a bit.

But what especially piqued my curiosity, was that I had only ever heard James talk about classical, church music, and John Denver up until this point. Hard rock… Metal? I had to find out more about this music that had Dr. White so intrigued!

As I started to listen to a few more of their songs, I quickly became hooked. One song lead to another (most via YouTube algos), and then music reaction videos. I even started finding music critiques, analyzing certain aspects of their music.

I like a fairly wide variety of music, but have never considered myself all that into metal. I probably have a stereotype of something more like speed-metal in my head – lots of fast drums and staccato guitar chords, often with dark or angry screaming lyrics. That just isn’t my thing, so I’ve mostly been into metal on the edge of hard-rock. I like some musical depth, melodies, and hopefully interesting lyrics. While there are too many bands to name, a few like Rush, Van Halen, and Def Leopard come to mind as favorites roughly fitting the description. Skillet is often described as hard-rock, symphonic metal, or nu metal.

They quickly became one of my favorite bands, if not my absolute favorite. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard of them previously, especially since they are often considered a Christian band (more on this in a bit), and I was very connected to the Christian music scene for many years.(1)I spent several years playing in Christian worship bands for a few different churches, so really kept up with that scene. I must have gotten too busy with life, right around the time they started becoming known.

But, apparently, a lot of people haven’t heard of them. I have only run across a few people in my circle of friends who have, and I guess John Cooper (lead singer, bass, writer) has joked about this a number of times.

John Cooper’s bio page has the following description, ‘… one of the best-selling rock bands of the 21st century. The two-time Grammy-award nominated, 17X platinum band was inducted to Pandora’s Billionaire club after garnering 2 billion streams, took home a Billboard music Award and more. Their breakout single “Monster” remains “one of the most-streamed rock songs of all time.”

So, I decided I needed a place to direct friends, to give them an introduction, or tour of Skillet, instead of trying to send them a bunch of YouTube links or song names.

Grab your best set of headphones, and let’s get started!

Instead of beginning with one of their big hits or my favorite, I decided to pick a less popular song, which I believe is such a good representation, at least of their primary sound over the last decade or so. This is a studio version overlayed with tour footage, to give you a bit of a visual introduction, as well. (This song really should be one of their hits, IMO. It is currently competing with my other favorites for top spot.  Enjoy!)

Skillet – “I Want to Live”

 

This song has it all… strings, thick, crunchy guitars, the magical vocal interplay between John and Jen, catchy melodies & rhythms, and an epic, movie soundtrack kind of presence. This is my favorite of their styles.

Before we get to my a couple of my very favorites, let’s switch gears into a highly produced music video for another song in this style. This is one of their very popular songs.

Skillet has some very high quality productions for their videos. (Note: For many of the songs, I will also include a live – or at least live-footage – version, as half the fun is seeing them play. But, often the sound isn’t as good or rich as the studio version, so it is best to check both out.)

Skillet – “Not Gonna Die”

 

 

Now that you have a bit of a feel for their music, I’d love to introduce you to two of my favorite songs, kind of in this style with the strings, though maybe not as soundtrack-like. First my favorite:

Skillet – “Awake and Alive”

 

 

It is hard for me to describe why this is my overall favorite song, but it is a combination of aspects; the beauty, the power, the message. (hint, hint, Skillet… just in case you ever run across this post… I’d love to use a section of this song for a podcast intro I hope to produce one day soon.) I love the power of these lyrics:

I’m at war with the world ’cause I
Ain’t never gonna sell my soul
I already made up my mind
No matter what, I can’t be bought or sold

And, my close second favorite song:

Skillet – “Comatose”

 

 

Wow, that violin/cello intro on the live version! I wish I could go back to a concert around that time. They currently have the cello player when live, but the violin player sadly retired from the band a number of years back. Must have been amazing to see!

Now, I’m going to switch gears towards a couple of more straight forward hard rock selections. The strings are gone, but as always, a lot of energy and ‘crunch’. This is my favorite of that style, and could be a personal theme song.

Skillet – “The Resistance”

 

Oh, and just in case you haven’t already noticed, one of the highlights of the band for many fans, is drummer/singer Jen Ledger. I’m not a drummer, and I know there are a lot of very talented drummers out there, but Jen seems to be crazy-good. But, throw in that she’s often singing the equivalent of lead-vocal parts, while drumming… that can’t be easy! Here’s a ‘Jen-cam’ view of a few clips from ‘The Resistance’ above:

 

Here is a drum solo to show off her drumming talents:

 

And, if you also haven’t recognized how vocally talented she is, here is a little treat. Here is Jen performing a song called from her solo-project, Ledger, at home on the couch with an acoustic guitar backing. Shivers, goosebumps, and all of that!!! What a voice.

Ledger – “My Arms”

 

Time to introduce some more styles, but, before I do, someone created a great compilation of clips from the start of Skillet to almost the present. It gives a great taste of their sound over the years, in different configurations of the band. (I haven’t even gotten into their earlier stuff, yet.)

 

Image credit: VelvetKelm20 CC BY-SA 4.0

Now, we move on to some of their more typical rock / hard-rock tracks (click to continue) >>

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