Musical Explorations #5: Skillet

I remember the time I discovered Skillet was a Christian band.

 

I had heard some of their music and liked it okay, so I was scrolling through their albums when I came across a live album entitled “Ardent Worship.”

 

It was just like finding out Darth Vader is Luke’s father.

 

And I’ve been confused ever since.

 

The band itself is not awful. In between the powerchords, they have some legitimately good music. “Comatose” comes to mind.

And honestly, even some of the odd lyrics in other songs could be excused…except for the fact that they have branded themselves as Christian. That’s what I don’t understand.

Take a listen to “Heaven in My Veins,” (freakily reminiscent of Marilyn Manson) or “Open Wounds.” I’m sure that little imagination is required to discern the meanings of these songs. From a modern rock band, it isn’t all that surprising. But throw in the fact that they claim all their songs to be about Christ…so Jesus is a drug?

Not trying to pull in too many outside genres, but country great Tim McGraw has a song entitled “Drugs or Jesus.” Note the “or.” Jesus is NOT a drug, and Tim’s song is about how drugs are a poor substitute for Jesus when someone is searching for the truth, and wasting their lives on those things instead of turning to the real Truth.

But it seems that Skillet, rather than drawing a contrast, is suggesting a direct correlation. Getting high off Jesus.

To their credit, they do have a song called “Better than Drugs,” which shows promise. If you could understand the lyrics. But it doesn’t seem to do any better than making Jesus a sort of super-drug. Better than all the drugs we have now, I suppose.

 

I’ve said before that most Christian bands senselessly repeat the name of Christ, Jesus, etc., and feel like that makes it a good song. I’ve also said that this is not necessary and sometimes detrimental to a song that has Christ at its heart, no matter the subject matter.

However, Skillet not only avoids the first pitfall of senseless repetition (for the most part), they fall right into the other ditch, and make it so far from anything related to Christ that the only way for bums like me to realize they are a Christian band is to stumble upon the worship album.

 

Admittedly, many of their songs have references to salvation, etc., and other things of that sort. But heck, they do have an audience to pander to. My question is, how do those fans understand the lyrics? You gotta look em up apparently. Because between the powerchords and the screamo, any legitimate lyrics are beaten and thrice drowned for good measure.

 

Also – and this is my personal beef – what’s with those fans anyway? I’ve been to a Skillet concert. They put on a pretty good show, actually. Which was a real pity, because I’ve never seen that many people that little interested to be somewhere.

It did mean that I was virtually uncontested for a spot right in front of the stage, so I wasn’t entirely complaining.

 

So the question I guess we should ask is, does this really advance the Kingdom? All they are doing is comparing Christ to sin…literally. And not just once. In many songs. Something doesn’t sit right about that…

Sometimes they show a glimmer of promise. And musically, they aren’t near as bad as other “Christian” bands (Disciple immediately comes to mind).

Theologically…well there’s not much to pick at because there just ain’t that much there. It’s just mostly about salvation…and the lyrics aren’t really strong enough to form a consistent credo even about that. It seems to be a direct result of the hyperevangelism I spoke of in a recent post (though this claim can be made with a good bit of truth about most Christian bands).

There’s also a fair amount of testimonial-type songs. Not a bad thing…but it gets old. Yes, you were saved, glory to God in the Highest! Now grow up please…when I was child, I thought as a child, but when I became a man, I put away childish things. God didn’t save you so you can stagnate and think happy thoughts about the day you got saved. Remember it certainly, and give thanks for it, but grow up. Please. We all must learn to mature in the faith…and this kind of music retards that growth.

 

Is their heart in the right place? Yea. Are they a bad band? No. Are they a Christian band? Not really. I’m reminded of Brian “Head” Welch (of Korn fame), who left Korn after coming to Christ. He has since started recording Christian music (unfortunately, it sounds just about like it did back when he was with Korn).

 

None of this should be taken to mean that I don’t like Skillet. I think they are one of the better Christian bands I’ve heard. I liked them enough to go to a concert. But that doesn’t mean I’m happy with the work they’ve done, and it certainly doesn’t mean that they can’t do better.

 

So let’s fix this problem at the root: quit thinking in the frame of the old sinful man. Put that man off. Put on the new man of Christ. Show that face to the world. Don’t sit and stagnate in your new-found salvation…that’s not why God saved you. Your purpose now is to glorify Him. And Skillet can do better. We all can.

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5 comments

  1. Nick House

    Too many Skillet songs that I’ve listened to sound like a sanitized version of Disturbed produced by TobyMac and aimed at Christian kids whose parents won’t let them listen to (secular) heavy metal. And given John Cooper’s voice and their combination of music and lyrics, many songs don’t sound Christian at all. Take the creepy “Savior”, which is supposed to be from the perspective of Jesus, with the lyrics “I am the eyes inside staring back at you.” Yeah. And most of their songs sound like they were written in five minutes. (At least most that I know.), without a lot of care beign taken in the songwriting. Take the clumsy intro to “Hero”, or the lyrics to “Monster”, “I feel it deep within/it’s underneath the skin.” How can you feel it deep withing if it’s underneath the skin?
    Love the part about the fans who aren’t excited about the concert. When I went to see House of Heroes, there were fans right next to the stage…on their cellphones. Have you listened to Disciple’s song “Game On”? It was a pro-military song, and I liked it, but it didn’t sound like Disciple’s other stuff. If you want a Christian band with good lyrics, you should check out mewithoutYou. Their music is really weird, though, so keep that in mind.
    And in the interest of disclosing all truth, the cover band that I’m in is working on a version of “Monster” by Skillet, so I’m not totally opposed.

    • MadDawg Scientist

      That is exactly who the Christian metal genre is aimed towards: “Oh, it’s Christian, it’s fine then.”

      Good point about clumsy lyrics. It just has to sound good when you scream it.

      Our marching band actually plays a cover of “Monster,” which was the first time I’d heard it, and I only found out later it was a Skillet song. It was very moving for some reason (then again, most things our band plays is very moving to me). They also make Lady Gaga sound good so there ya go.

      mewithoutYou: I’ll check ’em out. It’s a pity you have to clarify that they have weird music. Where’s the good stuff 😉

      And I honestly had never made the connection between Savior and the perspective of Jesus. How sad is that? Guess I shoulda looked up the lyrics.

    • MadDawg Scientist

      I looked up mewithoutYou…musically, pretty good. Lyrically…I dunno, because the vocals are awful and whispered, at least in the songs I listened to. Has promise, if the lead will actually open up his mouth.

  2. Nick House

    mewithoutYou’s vocals are…distinctive. On their older albums the singer actually talks the lyrics, but he sings on their new record, (Which I don’t have yet.) I would suggest listening to “Wolf Am I (And Shadow), “O Porcupine” and “In A Sweater Poorly Knit” off their album Brother, Sister, and “Paper Hanger” and “January 1979” off the album Catch for Us the Foxes.
    I’m sure there’s a good Christian metal band somewhere, but the only one that comes to mind is Metallica…oh wait, never mind. What would be really cool would be to have a Christian metal band in the subgenre of power/symphonic metal, like Nightwish or Within Temptation, but that’s not what’s popular in Christian rock circles. I guess I’ll have to start one.
    Brian “Head” Welch…is just awful. He sounds like a drunken pirate.
    If you want really mature Christian music with good lyrics you should check out Derek Webb. He’s probably the best Christian songwriter out there, all his albums sound different, and he’s a Calvinist.

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