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Fear is a powerful force. In a world where terrorism, war or more personal threats loom just over the horizon, it’s easy to fall prey to anxiety.

Amid this, the band Skillet offers an answer — a very loud one. The band’s latest CD, “Collide,” is packed with songs that squarely confront today’s hardest issues and offer a positive response.

“The idea behind ‘Collide’ was basically: How can we live this life in a world that has so much violence,” said John Cooper, lead singer and songwriter for Skillet.

“September 11 and the war had a lot to do with the idea behind ‘Collide.’ Responding to fear, we have to have hope. … The hope that we have is in Christ and our lives have a purpose.”

This theme comes through most clearly on the title track. In the song “Collide,” Cooper’s vulnerable-sounding voice asks “how long can we hold on” when fear and faith collide. The answer comes in a flood of aggressive guitar riffs: “There’s something deep inside that keeps my faith alive.”

Skillet’s recent single and video “Savior” revolve around a similar message. The music alternates between an acoustic-backed call from God for a loving relationship and blasting choruses stating “everything’s going to crash and break” without one.

When things do crash and break, the pain can be almost unbearable, which is why Cooper wrote “Imperfection.” This haunting song — taking its cues from Psalm 139 — mentions that even while “you’re drowning in your imperfection,” you “mean so much” and are “fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Cooper said an anti-suicide song is a natural for a band that aims its music to young adults.

“I do think that no matter what is going on in life and how bad things can seem to get, the Bible teachers us that God has a plan for our lives,” he said. “… It’s amazing that God can take horrible situations and heartbreak and use it for our good.”

For example, Cooper’s mother died of cancer when he was 14. “I still don’t understand but realized that God is in control, can take the hurt in my life and use it for good.”

One of the most interesting tracks on the disc is “A Little More.” Building from a mellow but firm opening, this terrific song turns the issue of strife upside down. Amid a blast a guitars and drums, it defiantly states: “Let the world crash, love can take it.”

Other solid tunes include “Obsession,” featuring Cooper’s raspy voice belting out an account of how obsessed he is with God, and “Under My Skin,” about closeness to God.

Overall, this CD marks a turn to a harder, louder and more assertive style that the band’s previous electronic and industrial efforts. It’s a big change, but one its fans — known as Panheads — appear to be embracing. Last month, Panheads overwhelmed a music poll by Christianity Today and voted Skillet band of the year and “Savior” song of the year and tried to name “Collide” album of the year - even though its Nov. 18 release was too late for the cutoff date.

On the Web: www.skillet.org

— Today’s Praise is a roundup of news and reviews from the contemporary Christian music industry. It appears every other week on the Religion page.

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