Alternative Christian rockers Skillet strike a balance between metalfest headliners and the worship band stage, delivering hard-charging anthems for secular and spiritual audiences alike. Slowly amassing an audience in the mid-'90s, they beefed up the band's lineup and broke into the mainstream in 2001 with their fourth album Alien Youth. From there, the quartet experienced a quick ascent on the charts, rapidly increasing in popularity with each successive release. By 2009, they had reached number two on the Billboard 200 with their best-selling effort to date, Awake. Subsequent LPs Rise (2013) and Unleashed (2016) proved just as popular, attracting a diverse audience with their reliably propulsive and riff-heavy output.
Formed in Memphis, Tennessee, the original Skillet lineup centered around the nucleus of lead singer and bassist John Cooper, guitarist Ken Steorts, and drummer Trey McClurkin. Debuting in 1996 with a self-titled LP, the trio returned two years later with Hey You, I Love Your Soul. Invincible followed in early 2000, and the group contributed three tracks to the Ardent Worship: Skillet Live compilation that same year. With a new lineup of Cooper on bass and lead vocals, his wife Korey Cooper on guitar and keyboards, Ben Kasica on guitar, and Lori Peters on drums, Skillet released Alien Youth on Ardent Records in 2001, marking their first appearance on the Billboard 200. Skillet followed with Collide in 2003. The latter album was then picked up by Lava/Atlantic and reissued the following year with a bonus track. Collide went on to be the band's best-selling album to date (even earning a Grammy nomination), and Skillet supported the record on tours with bands like Saliva and Shinedown.
Skillet's next effort for the label, Comatose, appeared in fall 2006, continuing their steady rise on both the charts and in sales. However, it wasn't until 2009's Awake that the band hit its stride. The first studio effort to feature new drummer Jen Ledger, Awake topped the U.S. Alternative and Christian Albums charts, rising to number two on the Billboard 200. Singles "Monster," "Hero," and "Awake and Alive" were all certified platinum and it remained their highest-selling release to date. Rise followed in 2013, topping the Christian, Rock, and Hard Rock charts. The next year, a compilation album, Vital Signs, was released to introduce the band to European audiences.
Skillet's ninth album, 2016's Unleashed, performed just as well and was bolstered by a deluxe version, Unleashed Beyond, which arrived in late 2017 and featured five new songs, including "Breaking Free" with Lacey Sturm. The following year, Ledger issued a self-titled solo EP, which was issued on the Cooper's label Hear It Loud. In addition to co-writing contributions by Korey, John also lent his vocals to the single "Warrior." Both acts continued to tour before returning to the studio for Skillet's tenth set, Victorious. Released in August 2019, the spiritually invigorating effort included singles "Legendary" and "Save Me." ~ Jason Ankeny & Steve Leggett