Review Summary: The sound of Kutless trying and failing to mature.
If Nickelback converted to Christianity and got a better singer, there's a good chance that the end result would sound exactly like Christian post-grunge/worship titans Kutless. This is the iconic Christian band that hip youth pastors nationwide love, the general musical community hates, and countless CCM bands try to emulate. They also serve as somewhat of a gateway band for many sheltered Christian children (myself included) into harder music, along with similar religious bands such as Skillet or 12 Stones. Their bad reputation among music fans is arguably well-deserved, and can be attributed to the stereotypical post-grunge and Christian contemporary they push out album after album, but they do have merit. Singer Jon Micah Sumrall certainly as some talent, and their overall sound is incredibly catchy, if not anything else.
However, with their 5th studio effort To Know That You're Alive
, Kutless seems to have recognized that their reputation for meathead hard rock is something that should be done away with, and they have, as a result, tried experimenting a bit more here. Eery now and again, this experimentation works: Dying to Become
is honestly one of the best songs of the band's career, and experiments with electronics and intense loud-quiet dynamics to become an obvious album highlight. Kutless also inject some metal into a couple songs, namely The Disease and the Cure
, whose LoG-ish bridge riff is probably the most metal thing Kutless has ever written. The title track is also relatively good, hitting a home run with its combination of electronic undertones, a catchy-as-hell
chorus, and a few heavier bits.
Unfortunately, these three songs are the album's only major redeeming factors. The large majority of the rest of the album falls either in incredibly generic Jesus-praisin' ballad territory or the realm of mindless filler tracks. The great thing about previous Kutless efforts was that, even when they did throw in a few ballads, each album had a couple outstandingly good ones that actually held the listener's attention for more than three seconds: something the band fails to accomplish here. Tracks such as I Do Not Belong
are about as cheesy as Christian Radio-friendly worship tracks can get, and when you've listened to this sort of thing for as long as I have you'll know that it can get pretty damn cheesy. Non-ballad tracks outside of the three previously mentioned highlight almost all fall as unmemorable filler. Lead single The Feeling
, while being catchy at first listen, grows old incredibly quickly, and rocker Loud
is probably one of the most boring things Kutless has ever written.
I wish just as much as anyone that this album could be better, as Kutless was one of those bands that practically defined my tween years. There are a few promising things here for the band, namely the introduction of electronic bits and the occasional metal riff, but these are mixed in with a puke-worthy amount of bad CCM tracks that prove that in the process of trying to mature Kutless have become lazy. If they combine the good here with the heavy post-grunge character of Hearts of the Innocent
, the darker tone of their self-titled, and the magnificently catchy and at times beautiful choruses of Sea of Faces
, Kutless could come out with a winner. But they still have a long way to go.
To Know That You're Alive
The Disease and the Cure
Dying to Become