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September 2001 Pick of the Month

Alien Youth
Artist: Skillet
Label: ForeFront
Tracks: 12

Skillet has experienced a musical evolution like very few bands have undergone. All signs point to the fact that Alien Youth is where this evolution has been heading to and the changes were all worthwhile.

Releasing their first album in the fall of 1996, Skillet quickly became a Christian rock favorite with their edgy hard rock sound. The sound was raw and unpolished, yet powerful. Still, it was obvious that improvements could be made. The first stab at improvement came with the release of their second album, Hey You, I Love Your Soul, which toned down the heaviness and added some electronic sounds. The new sound wasn't necessarily rock or industrial or techno. The third time out on Invincible, the hooks were catchier and the electronics were more up front. The album brought several band member changes. Vocalist/bassist John Cooper became the only original Skillet member.

On Alien Youth, Skillet has taken the next logical step. The electronic influence is still just as obvious as on Invincible, but now the band has rekindled the heaviness found on the original debut. The difference is that the heaviness is channeled in a more intelligent way and the hooks are bigger and better. The music on Alien Youth blows away anything the band has done before.

At this point, Skillet's sound can be considered to be industrial. Massivivid's Brightblur is probably the best album to compare Alien Youth to musically. The main difference between that all too-underestimated Massivivid debut and the new Skillet album is that Skillet is more straightforward and less poetic than Massivivid but Alien Youth  rocks with all the musical power of Brightblur. Now that's some good stuff. The way the rhythm guitar matches the drums on the song "Vapor" does a good job of showing exactly what kind of music Skillet is capable of these days.

John Cooper is a visionary. The purpose behind the Alien Youth album proves it. Cooper envisions this album as a reviving force for the souls of young people. The title track and the song "Earth Invasion" specifically go hand in hand with what Cooper is trying to do with the album. The other songs provide a backdrop, giving purpose to the goal of Alien Youth. "Vapor" and "Eating Me Away" remind me much of Ecclesiastes with both songs pointing out that life is meaningless without God. "Vapor" is rather bleak in its outlook: "And the future's robbing my soul/ I'm face to face with my futility/ And my life is slipping away/ Inhaling my mortality." While "Vapor" mainly just explains the need, "Eating Me Away" also provides the answer: "Save me from my rage and my humanity/ I'm more nothing than being/ Is this my legacy/ Feel it eating me away/ All that I am, all that I want, all that I lack/ Come on and save me." The song transitions neatly into "Kill Me, Heal Me.”

An incredible desire for God is expressed in the song "Thirst Is Taking Over": "You alone are what my soul needs/ You know the thirst is taking over/ Hardly breath, I'm in urgent need/ You know the thirst is taking over." The songs "Stronger" and "Rippin' Me Off" are very straightforward in their message of countering the world. "Will You Be There" and "Come My Way" are both more toned down in their music and personal in their lyrics. The only weak song to be found here is "One Real Thing," a tune that sounds a bit too cliché when stacked up alongside the others. Wife Korey Cooper penned "One Real Thing," and while it's not a bad song, it really doesn't fit well on Alien Youth.

Skillet is planning to do big things with this album and this is definitely the record they needed to deliver to the masses. While certainly far from what you would consider art, Skillet delivers so well on the hooks and the message, that I find myself enjoying Alien Youth thoroughly despite the fact that it's no masterpiece. This is the stuff that will and should be playing on the loudspeakers before youth group meetings. Alien Youth blows away any other youth group music out there.

Trae Cadenhead 8/28/2001

Recently, Christian music has been fairly disappointing. Christian record labels have been too preoccupied with teen pop and praise and worship music to turn out many great new bands. Christian radio has become more and more saturated with Christian cliches and "bumper sticker" lyrics. I have been hoping that Skillet's new record, Alien Youth, would help to renew my faith in the Christian music industry. 

For the most part the album succeeds; chiefly because Alien Youth proves that all four members of Skillet are truly gifted performers. Drummer Lori Peter creates strong, catchy beats, and 17-year-old Ben Kasica shows great promise as a rock guitarist. John Cooper's assertive lead vocals are as captivating as ever, and his wife, Korey, adds a whole new dimension to the album with her well-placed background vocals, and even sings some lead vocals on the impressively honest "Will You Be There." Although I am normally not a big fan of hard industrial pop, Skillet has won me over with their excellent musicianship. 

Lyrically, however, Alien Youth is not quite as impressive, although there are a few inspired moments. "You Are My Hope" and "Thirst is Taking Over" are both gorgeous worship songs, and "Come My Way" takes a creative look at doubt and faith. On the flip side, however, there are a few cheesy, almost laughable lyrics, such as the chorus of "Stronger": "Cause I'm stronger, yeah/ Than the devil, yeah." The message is questionable, and the execution is poor. 

I have never been a Skillet fan before, but Alien Youth has proven to be one of my favorite new releases of the year. Skillet fans, A.K.A. Panheads,  will love this new album, and Alien Youth should also help the band to acquire many new fans. They're still not as creative as, say, Switchfoot or Luna Halo, but with their new album, Skillet proves why they are one of the most popular Christian bands in the world today. 

Track listing... 
1. Alien Youth 
2. Vapor 
3. Earth Invasion 
4. You Are My Hope 
5. Eating Me Away 
6. Kill Me Heal Me 
7. Thirst is Taking Over 
8. One Real Thing 
9. Stronger 
10. Rippin Me Off 
11. Will You Be There 
12. Come My Way 

Josh Hurst  8/29/2001

With the August release of the band's fifth album, Skillet once again returns to its rock roots while still maintaining the more electronically modified elements for which the band has been recognized since Skillet's self-titled debut.

Fans of Skillet will find the marriage between the harder elements and the more trendy dance vibe unique, but still true to the overall sound with which the band has established itself. The addition of guitarist Ben Kasica complements the skills of drummer Lori Peters, Korey Cooper, keyboardist and wife of frontman John Cooper.

Alien Youth captures Skillet's passion for worship and is designed to be such a tool. From the title track to the final song, "Come My Way," this release is packed with Biblically solid, totally rocked out songs that engage the mind as well as the body and soul. As well as encapsulating the live sound onto an album, the band has managed to illustrate the past five years of ministry and its passion for Christ.

The album opens heavy, but laced with electronic effects, as the title track allegorizes an alien invasion as the body of Christ. "We're taking over the world/We're the Alien Youth/We're coming for your souls." The song asserts that as the body of Christ, we're here to stay and we're not leaving until we've reached everyone.

That theme continues into track three, "Earth Invasion" which musically brings the same electronically generated loops along with aggressive rock, driving through the track. Speaking of evangelism, the song clearly exhibits a passion for a lost world. "The earth's frustration/To be whole again/We'll see a nation/Living without sin."

In the spirit of Invincible's "Rest," "You Are My Hope," combines the vocal talents of both John and Korey with a soaring musical track and thoughtful lyrics that truly embody the worshipful attitude the band clearly displays throughout their music and live shows.

"Kill Me Heal Me" has the same feel as "Splinter Me" from Skillet's debut. Between the thrashing guitars, driving drum loops, snarling distortion and screaming vocals, the song speaks to the core of Christianity -- constantly being renewed in the faith and internalizing our relationship with God. "Break my bones and rest me/Piece by piece you break me/Pick up the cross cause it's killin' time."

Another soul searching track, "The Thirst is Taking Over," reaffirms our desperate need for God, expressing that yearning inside our souls to be loved and to love. The song captures again the desire to truly know our creator.

One of the saddest and yet the most raging songs on the album is "Rippin' Me Off," penned by John after attending a Marilyn Manson show. The experience left him sickened by the lies and hateful messages disseminated to a searching audience. "You say that God is dead but you're rippin' me off/You can't infect my mind with your vanity."

"Come My Way," the final track slows into a sweet, melodic and impassioned cry for a touch from God. The simplicity of the lyrics and piano melody bring out the full impact of the song.

Alien Youth is a welcome follow-up to Invincible as well as the band's recently released worship album, Ardent Worship: Skillet. The aggressive rock of its debut, as well as the electronically driven sound of more recent albums, finally produces the best of both worlds in one album.

By Kerry Maffeo 9/5/2001

The best thing Skillet did between Invincible and Alien Youth was to include itself in the Ardent praise and worship series. That project had a great impact on the band and has tightened the band's focus on its message: The Great Commission to spread the good news of Jesus Christ. I'm impressed with Skillet's best recording to date.

I've always liked Skillet and saw an excellent concert right after John Cooper enlisted his wife Korey (on keyboards) on the Hey You I Love Your Soul tour. The band was just including a bit more electronica, which led to the overall sound of Invincible. The best bits of it remain intact, merging Invincible with Hey You, I Love Your Soul.

Simply, the band has solidified its trademark music style -- going back to "Gasoline" -- a simple intro which moving into a heavy bed of guitars, solid bass, drums, and John Cooper's slightly gritty yet loud and clear vocal quality. It's music that does well for the mosh pit and/or jumping up and down in worship.

There are outstanding moments from Skillet's first three projects ("Saturn," "More Faithful," and "Best Kept Secret" come to mind), and the band seems to have made a "concept" album here. The refrain from the title track, "We're takin' over the world; we're the alien youth, we're takin' over!" sets the pace for this project marvelously. It's loud and proud that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior, no holds barred. I like this very much. In a nutshell, this is the best "Jesus record" I've heard in many years, with a conviction I haven't heard since Keith Green and Larry Norman.

Examples? "Kill Me Heal Me" is definitely about dying to self and living for Christ. "Thirst is Taking Over" is along the same theme as "More Faithful" (a rock and roll praise and worship anthem). "Rippin' Me Off" reminds me of the frenetic pace and message of Jesus Music's "3D" (directly combatting those who ponder the thought: "God is dead").

"You Are My Hope" and "Will You Be There" are two of the best rock praise and worship songs that match anything from the seasoned teams at Vineyard, PDI, or Maranatha! Music. Youth groups should plug these songs into their praise and worship time. They are both incredibly beautiful. Ditto for the closing track, "Come My Way."

There's still a small range of room for improvement for Skillet. The band should vary its style slightly for only two arrangements. "Earth Invasion" and "Stronger" sound too much like re-workings of "Hey You, I Love Your Soul." These tunes work so well with the theme of the title track that I'm already forgetting about this parallel.

Skillet obviously took great time -- and possibly pain -- in prayer and in the studio to produce a project which is a testament to Jesus' saving grace. If you have ever heard of Skillet and like the band's style, Alien Youth is a must-have addition to your collection. Important closing note: Alien Youth can also be an important witnessing tool. Listen to it, and you'll see why.

Olin Jenkins  September 11, 2001

Skillet rocks hard with their latest album Alien Youth.  Produced by vocalist John Cooper, the quartet has delivered a mix of hardcore rock and industrial sounds that comes closer to a live performance than any of their previous offerings.

Alien Youth is the idea that a generation of young Christians has risen up to radically change the world.  The title track gives light to this concept:

  Worldwide Jesus domination, love conquers all.
  Rise like a chosen generation, is no stopping it all
  We’re taking over the world, we’re the alien youth
  We’re coming for your soul, we’re gonna change the world.
“Stronger” showcases the skills of new guitarist Ben Kasica, a guitar prodigy debuting here at the age of 17.  The Audio Adrenaline meets Nine Inch Nails song details Christ’s time on earth, and the fact his power is greater than that of Satan.

Skillet has another dimension as well.  Fueling their long-standing tradition of performing worship songs in concert, they have written “You Are My Hope,” which showcases their ability to sing and harmonize.  This song has more of a power pop sound, and is highlighted by Korey Cooper’s backup vocals, while John’s voice approaches Mac Powell of Third Day.   I can hear this one being done in youth worship sessions for quite a while. “Will You Be There (Falling Down)” is another duet that serves as this CD’s “power ballad.”

The most vehement song is probably “Rippin’ Me Off”, written by John in response to a Marilyn Manson concert:

They say Jesus is doing nothing
They say evolution took His place
There’s no God that created the world
And no Savior for the human race…
You say that God is dead but you’re rippin’ me off
You can’t infect my mind with your vanity…
Musically, “One Real Thing” shines, while “Come My Way” further illustrates that Skillet has the ability to be loud, but also has some singing talent as well.  Possibly the best Christian rock album I’ve heard this year.

Brian A. Smith 9/24/2001


 

   
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