It's been a long wait for an all-new Skillet CD, but the result is worth it. Awake continues the arena rock flavor of Comatose, and the title makes it clear that this is a planned sequel, not something entirely new. That's a good thing, as Comatose was a smash hit.
New drummer Jen Ledger, only 19, maintains Skillet's tradition of rocking female drummers. Although a native of England, she met John at his church, where she was attending an arts-related program. As John told us during our Heavenfest chat on August 8, a friend encouraged Skillet to consider Jen as a drummer when Lori retired. John had no interest, thinking "she was probably terrible," but gave in. He immediately found out how wrong he was, and by the time they hit the studio, Jen was also contributing duet vocals on "Hero" and "Awake & Alive." Guitarist Ben Kasica, who joined Skillet at 16, continues his stellar shreadding. Add John's bass playing and his wife Korey's rhythm guitar and keys, and Skillet continues to be a great-sounding band live and in studio. Todd Agnew's former violinist Jonathan Chu is now touring with them, along with cellist Tate Olsen, and road manager Scottyrock usually rocks the bass on a few songs, as we saw in a tremendous Heavenfest show attended by at least 15,000 rowdy fans.
Awake opens with the first two rocking singles, "Hero" and "Monster." The latter is a great live song with John wailing his confession, "I feel like a monster" as he laments the struggle with what the Apostle Paul calls "the old man."
As always, Skillet includes several ballads. "Don't Wake Me" is a classic Skillet power ballad and the touching "Lucy" closes out the album in fitting fashion. While Lucy has passed on and is sleeping the sleep of death on earth, she's awake in heaven. People have interpreted "Lucy" in different ways, and since John likes it that way, he's not giving out any specifics. Interpret it your way and enjoy. After the Awake project was apparently done, the label decided to add one more ballad. John put the finishing touches on "Believe" and it was quickly recorded and added. He now calls it his favorite on the CD.
Skillet fans are sure to embrace Awake, another strong addition to the band's discography. As they hit the road with Hawk Nelson on the Awake & Alive Tour, their popularity will only continue to grow.