Review Summary: Kutless soften up their sound on this album enough to be soft rock, but don't attempt the soft rock genre, which results in an airy rendition of the sound they're known for that lacks the vital contrast of soft and hard.
It’s very apparent from listening to any of their albums, that Kutless is and has always been more heavily Christian in their lyrics than most other Christian post-grunge outfits like Flyleaf or Creed.
It’s not just in how they choose to address faith related themes in practically every one of their songs, it’s also in how noticeable it is in the way the lyrics are delivered. Because while their sound has always possessed heavy and chugging radio alt. metal riffs comparable to that of Staind and Linkin Park, the very soft and soaring melodies in the vocals (that don’t possess any anger whatever) have always provided quite the contrast to the music surrounding it.
Even if on some releases Kutless was more concerned with soaring to the heavens in their vocals, than they where with the melodies coming off as bland, boring, and deprived of differentiation and presented emotions. But this was only an issue on few releases, and when it was a problem it was minor.
Regardless, this made Kutless stand out, as they had much appeal in both catchy heavy riffs of the early 2000’s nu metal scene, and touchingly beautiful gospel like swoons that squeezed them into the Christian Contemporary music scene. They didn’t get quite as popular as other acts like Skillet, because stressing the frequency of the religious specifics of their subject matter was their top priority in their songs, and it ended up restricting them from a very wide audience. And even though there was beauty of the pure emotions displayed in their songs that no other singer came close to in Christian rock, the audience of the alt. metal scene the band was apart of was more interested in vocals that revealed more anger and where delivered with more brooding rage.
Kutless has always been special and superior to most other acts among the overwhelming amount of bands in their genre, because they married two forces that are powerful for opposing reasons, and did it in a way that worked without subtracting any of the power from either. This method was attention-grabbing and lasting as opposed to other sounding watered-down bands of their kind.
Ever since their debut back in 2002, Kutless has been progressively getting softer as they crawled towards their previous album It Is Well, which dropped any and all rock aspects completely, in favor of being pure worship music. It Is Well still worked really well even with a huge part of the bands sound dropped, because it made up for that absence by putting even more power and emphasis than they had before on what their focus was.
However, with their latest offering Believer, it seems now that it WAS well before this album, as Kutless decides to stay as soft and lite as they made themselves on It Is Well, but try to re-incorporate rock into the formula. With this decision, any post-grunge or metal element that Kutless had has now morphed into a sort of soft rock. This wouldn’t be an issue if it was actually trying to be soft rock though.
Kutless isn’t attempting to make music of the soft rock genre here, they are taking their original rock sound and making it lighter to fit the softness they where satisfied with on It Is Well. The difference between the two here being that this album ends up sounding like a more cliched, generic, and watered-down rendition of their previous music, instead of a significantly altered music route like switching to soft rock would.
Very bland and thin, the album sways without much of a grip, as the downgrade in their sound becomes more apparent with the each passable track. The rock side here isn’t actually used as a contrast, more as a very underwhelming underlying beat, that isn’t really there to be noticed, but just to be identified enough to know you’e listening to a rock based composition.
Their sound (and what they where aiming for on this in the first place) could have evolved with gaining the perks unique to soft rock, but they really do miss out on that here, as it’s not just inferior to their post-grunge-ish past albums, it is inferior as well when comparing this album to soft rock such as the Goo Goo Dolls. The vocal beauty Kutless tries to emphasize on doesn’t really seem that special when the tracks that contain them are noting remarkable, as it stood out more when surrounded by harsher music.
This is good music, but it’s just that, nothing on par with the above par work Kutless has been known to produce. In a nutshell, Kutless has the intention here of making their previous rock based sound as passionate as the worship music of It Is Well, but going softer doesn’t immediately result in automatic passion, it can result in a decrease in the kind of passion the original had, and that shows here in how sleepily mediocre and recycled everything is on Believe.