The heroic urgency that has sustained Skillet since the ‘90s is very much present on Rise, the band’s ninth studio album. Fans of the foursome’s landmark Collide album will find the same mix of thunderous ballads and soaring rockers on their latest release. Built around the theme of a teenager’s struggles with alienation and despair, Rise is at once desperate and empowering in tone. Front man John Cooper retains his throat shredding intensity as a singer, rising from a whisper to a scream on “Sick of It” and snarling with conviction on “Madness in Me.” Tracks like “Circus For a Psycho” and “American Noise” seethe with free-floating angst, while “Good to Be Alive” and “Not Gonna Die” offer anthems of survival with a faith-based underpinning. As usual, Skillet manages to exalt the Creator while maintain their aggressive edge – “My Religion,” for instance, sets a worshipful lyric to a swaggering, glam-tinged groove. Seth Morrison’s insistent guitar leads and Jen Ledger’s yearning background vocals (used most effectively on “Salvation” and “What I Believe”) help deepen the music’s impact. At the heart of Rise’s arena-shaking sound is a life-affirming message rooted in compassion and delivered with a ferocious kick.

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