John Cooper, frontman in Skillet, usually likes to listen to his band’s albums, something many musicians try to avoid for any number of reasons — such as not liking the sound of their voice, or they hear mistakes or missed opportunities to strengthen the songs.
“I do like to listen to my projects after awhile to kind of try to experience it as a fan,” Cooper said in a recent phone interview.
But the singer/bassist had a hard time getting himself to listen to the 2013 release “Rise," which he said was mired by outside interference, including co-writing with established outside songwriters, having to re-record certain songs.
Against that backdrop, it makes sense that Cooper and the other members of Skillet — his wife, Korey (guitar/keyboards), Seth Morrison (guitar) and Jen Ledger (drums/vocals) — went into the group’s latest album, “Unleashed,” looking to have a markedly different experience.
In a word, the guys and gals in Skillet just wanted to have fun. That will be on display Friday as they play Rabobank Arena as part of the Air 1 Positive Hits Tour, which includes fellow acts Britt Nicole, Colton Dixon, Tauren Wells and GAWVI.
Cooper also had a fairly specific idea of the sound he wanted to create on “Unleashed.” He felt Skillet, which formed in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1996 and has enjoyed success in both the mainstream and Christian rock scenes, really found its musical voice on its seventh album, the 2006 release, “Comatose.”
“It kind of solidified a very Skillet sound, which was very kind of arena rock, very theatrical,” Cooper said. “I would say it’s a little more classically musical than a lot of our counterparts in the rock world. So it kind of sounded pretty much like us. Then we started taking it a little further on the ‘Awake’ project, a little bit more rock and roll. It’s kind of been evolving each time.
“When we were making ‘Unleashed,’ I just thought it needs to sound like a really modern, in-your-face, big record,” he said. “The most modern sounding records at the time really in a bizarre way have been pop albums, and even Skrillex and the dubstep movement. It’s very in your face, very aggressive, and a lot of that is coming from synthesized sounds. So I said I want to try, I want to have a rock element that incorporates that kind of sonic assault that (you feel) when you hear Skrillex, but with the loud guitars as well. So we kind of tried to achieve that while still keeping our identity.”
That’s what Skillet achieved on “Unleashed," which is being re-released on Nov. 17 in a deluxe version called "Unleashed Beyond," It features two unreleased bonus tracks and remixes of three songs.
Fans are getting a sampling of the "Unleashed" material during the shows on Skillet’s fall tour, along with hits (such as the blockbuster 2009 single “Monster,” “Awake and Alive” and “Sick of It”), favorite album tracks and a few surprises.
“We just feel very energized,” Cooper said. “The crowd is enjoying the new music and so it’s just been really fun to put new songs into the set, along with some surprises, some musical transitions that are not any recorded project we’ve done. They’re soley for live. They’re for creating that drama live. That’s one of my favorite things about live performance. People come to the show and they hear something they’ve never heard you do before, and maybe they don’t know exactly what song it is until the actual song, the recorded version, picks up. And that’s something that people have been doing for a long time, but some of my favorites that do that would be like Peter Gabriel. You hear it and you’re like ‘I know this lyric, but it sounds different,’ and then the song starts. I love that kind of stuff, very dramatic.”