Artist Spotlight: Skillet
by Wendy Lee Nentwig | June 27, 2013
They're not the most prolific band, releasing only seven studio projects in 17 years, and despite two Grammy nods and 18 Dove Award nominations, they've taken home only a few trophies: a Dove in 2008 for Rock Recorded Song of the Year, and the Top Christian Album title at the 2011 Billboard Music Awards. So what's the big deal?
In this age of overnight Internet sensations, Skillet are the poster band for hard work and perseverance, and as one of only three bands to have an album certified platinum in 2012 (alongside Mumford & Sons and The Black Keys), they make a pretty good case for a slow burn.
Not that the band has been hurting for validation. John Cooper & Co. only need to look to the "panheads" for that. Skillet's freakishly faithful following has proven they will follow the foursome anywhere. These über-fans have even managed to make the band's questionable moniker feel like it fits. Speaking of, the name Skillet started out as a joke, alluding to the mixture of styles and other bands the members played in. It was only going to be a side project anyway, but the band became Cooper's primary focus and by then the name had stuck.
Formed in Memphis in 1996, Skillet went through a slew of early lineup changes (at one point, frontman and founder John Cooper was the only one left standing), but they came out sounding tighter than ever. The current lineup includes John's wife, Korey, on rhythm guitar and keys, Jen Ledger on drums and vocals, and Seth Morrison on lead guitar.
Label attention came quickly, and a self-titled debut was followed by 1997's Hey You, I Love Your Soul. But Skillet were just getting started. Korey became a permanent member of the band by the third album, and the sound became decidedly more electronic. They followed the worship trend with Ardent Worship, and then began to break through with 2001's Alien Youth, the first project with John Cooper at the production helm.
The band's 2003 release, Collide, really represented a serious shift. It bore a harder sound and earned the group mainstream distribution through Lava Records. Then Comatose came out in 2006, and the upward trajectory continued. By then, the band's seventh studio disc, Awake, was already out. The single "Hero" was used to promote the first game of the 2009 NFL season, and other sports programs, TV networks, film companies and games made promotional use of Skillet's music as well.
After nearly four years, the band returned with Rise, a concept album about a typical American teenager who's appalled by the state of the world and searching for significance and salvation. The songs stand on their own, especially hook-heavy tracks like "Sick of It." Still, the album proves that all these years later, Skillet are still evolving. This time around that means the addition of accordion, mandolin and dulcimer and a less frenetic, more acoustic sound -- at least in places. Where Skillet will go next, who knows, but it's always fun to sample whatever the band serves up.