For Dominion, its dynamic 11th studio album, Skillet takes a familiar formula while adding some extra ingredients that elevate the Wisconsin band’s sound to both heavier and softer directions.
For example, opening track “Surviving the Game” is a soaring, uplifting anthemic rocker like the ones for which Skillet has become known. But there’s an extra garnish of electronics, distorted screams and a fiery opening riff that announces the record. “Standing In The Storm” builds on what “Surviving the Game” began—mixing in dark pop melodies and atmospheric electronica.
Lead singer John Cooper has become more politically outspoken in recent years, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the record itself is an expressly political one. Cooper mixes in broader political themes in some of his lyrics. “Resistance makes me stronger,” Cooper sings on “Standing In The Storm.” Skillet turns things up for pulsating heavy rocker “Dominion.” The guitar riffs are again out in full force, with guitarists Korey Cooper (Cooper’s wife) and Seth Morrison turning in stellar efforts—including a blistering solo on the title track.
You can’t argue with the band’s formula; it’s one that’s led Skillet to become one of the most successful bands in modern rock. Racking up more than 1 billion streams in 2020 alone, the band’s music has been featured by Marvel, MLB, NFL and NHL. The band’s music has also become a staple of the WWE wrestling world.
The band follows one of its heaviest songs with one of its softest in “Valley of Death.” The song is the first true direction change on the album, with the majority limited to John Cooper and a piano before the rest of the band—including vocals by drummer Jen Ledger—arrives in the track’s waning moments. It’s nice to hear the band venture into less familiar territory over the last couple of decades. The moment is short-lived, though, as things pick right back up on “Beyond Incredible,” which again pits danceable electronica with big and energetic guitar riffs on the chorus.
Also making a return (of sorts) on Dominion is the singing of drummer Jen Ledger. She had heavier singing roles on previous Skillet records but took a bit of a back seat on 2019’s Victorious. Ledger has a prominent backing vocal presence throughout the record, including trading lines with Cooper on the excellent “Destiny.” While the tracks don’t necessarily sound the same, the vocal patterns are a bit reminiscent of the the band’s earlier track “Hero.” Skillet really seems to lock in when Cooper and Ledger find a vocal balance, which tends to add an extra feeling of urgency.
Things slow back down for atmospheric ballad “Refuge.” Unlike the earlier ballad, this track leans a bit heavier on strings, electronica and pop-leaning balladry. Cooper’s delivery is crisp, and it’s nice to hear him actually back off and sing in a more restrained tone. Fist-pumping rocker “Shout Your Freedom” features some pseudo-political overtones, but again, in a broad sense. It’s simple and straightforward in comparison with some of the earlier rockers on the record, and has some classic rock sensibility—dueling guitar solo and all.
Heavy industrial riffs take the spotlight on “Destroyer,” though the track has some really cool electro-heavy transitions that take the song from verse to chorus. Much like some of the other garnishes on the album, it’s a welcome added ingredient to the sound. Power ballad “Forever or the End” mixes acoustic and piano aesthetics before the entire band joins in at the end with some excellent harmonization between Cooper and Ledger.
“Ignite” is a fairly straightforward rocker in the vein of some of the record’s earlier heavy tracks. The biggest curveball comes at the record’s close on “White Horse”—an electronica-heavy alt-rocker with trippy chopped-up beats, on which Cooper delivers a rapped verse mid-song. The track is also a surprise as it’s one of the only faith-based songs on the record, along with “Refuge.”
Dominion offers plenty to dig into for Skillet fans, and it sets the band back on track in delivering big anthemic songs that are still plenty heavy.
Follow writer Mike DeWald at Twitter.com/mike_dewald.