Skillet recently made headlines when their last album, Awake, became one of just three rock albums to be certified platinum in 2012, forming an improbable triumvirate with the Black Keys’ El Camino and Mumford & Sons’ Babel. The news that Skillet had sold more than a million albums in the U.S. came as a shock to all but the band’s wildly diverse horde of fans, male and female, young and old – known as “Panheads” – whose still-swelling ranks now officially number in the seven-digit range. This remarkable achievement was announced just as Skillet was putting the finishing touches on their eagerly awaited follow-up album, Rise (Atlantic/Word).
“Rise is the story of a typical American teen coming into adulthood and facing the massive world problems,” says Skillet’s Cooper, who is deeply concerned about the erosion of belief in young people today, as well as their deeply felt desire to belong. “Facing world problems as an adult is different from when you’re growing up and under someone else’s care. All of a sudden, you realize that the world is a dangerous place. It’s dark and scary, there’s acts of God happening, there’s war, there are all these terrible things, and you thinking, ‘How can I have hope in this place?’ But at the same time, you also think, ‘Even moving all those huge problems aside, I look at my own life and I’m not even comfortable with the things I can change. I’m fighting with my parents, my parents have split up, I’m here in this home getting yelled at all the time that I’m never gonna be good enough, and I’m starting to believe that I’m never gonna be good enough. I constantly fail myself, and I just want to have a reason to live. I want to matter, and I want to know that my life counts for something.'”
“So the story is basically about rising up out of your downtrodden life, rising up from that place where you feel like a failure, rising up to be comfortable being yourself, to stand up for what you believe in,” Cooper continues. “It’s not about pleasing your friends, it’s not about doing what’s cool; it’s about being who you are and being comfortable with that. And lastly, in the grand scheme of it all is, if I can be somebody I am comfortable being, maybe I can even rise up and help change the world. Can one person make a difference? Can one person actually matter?”
On Rise, then, the message is both spiritual and social, as Skillet reaches out anew to its ever-growing, ever-changing following. “I think music should be bringing people together and bringing them hope. That’s certainly what it does for me,” Cooper says, continuing to say that “we believe there is hope and there is love and there is a God that will be there for you; if you reach out to Him, He will reach back out to you. That message is in all of our records and most of our songs. It certainly is the message of this record.”