Those who recognized Kutless today may picture the modern worship act they’ve become as opposed to the hard rock outfit they used to be, complete with flying guitars, nose piercings, and screams (watch their Live in Portland DVD and you may think they’re a different band entirely). Although Kutless have become another dime-a-dozen worship act they used to write some kicking jams in their heydey. Here are ten of my favourites.
I recognize I’m in the minority when I say Kutless’s debut record is nothing more than a serviceable rock effort. They were following the tired roads Creed and Nickleback had pathed at the time. Even so, it still carries a few good tunes that hold up even today. “Run” is a power ballad from the perspective of God wishing to be with His children who neglect Him for temporary, trivial pleasures.
9. Beyond the Surface
Jon Micah’s lyrics have never really been the band’s strongest facet, but “Beyond the Surface” really hit a nerve for me when I was younger. It’s an anti-suicide anthem about reaching beyond the world’s perception of who we are and into who God made us to be. If a profoundly piercing message wasn’t enough the riffs here are monstrous.
One of the most underrated tunes on Hearts of the Innocent, “Mistakes” is a genuinely touching ballad that finds Jon urging a friend or child to learn from the mistakes he’s made. Granted, it doesn’t get much deeper than that, but it’s a strong song nonetheless.
7. Remember Me
Kutless’s second worship record, It Is Well, remains the best “CCM” record they’ve done (surpassing even the lacklustre To Know That You’re Alive). “Remember Me” is a brilliant example of how Kutless should be approaching modern worship today. It isn’t heavy by any means but neither is it a Tomlin knockoff. It’s beautifully dark and electrifying.
A few tracks on Sea of Faces bare quite an uncanny resemblance to moments of Phenononom by Thousand Foot Krutch. “Treason” is one of those instances where that comparison rings true. It’s a biting commentary on the Christian life and how we say we want to live one way but constantly live another.
5. Hearts of the Innocent
Talking about biting commentary, the title track of Kutless’s fourth studio effort is a mournful look at how moral corruption has dominated our generation. A riff that’s instantly recognizable is only another plus.
4. My Heart Is a Ghost
The Kutless of old started to return on the band’s 2015 effort Surrender and “My Heart Is a Ghost” proved beyond a doubt that hard rock is the sound the band should be pursuing. It’s a sludgy rock epic that is the best Kutless have sounded since Hearts of the Innocent.
New Year’s resolutions have a bad pedigree of never living pass the month of January, but if Kutless is brave enough to write it into a song about choosing to follow Christ they have my approval. I can’t recall another song that uses New Year’s resolutions the same way, so while it’s an amateurish decision, it’s a song that’s all their own.
2. Better For You
“Better For You” is another lyrical gem in the Kutless discography. It talks about the conflict between wanting to walk an easy path and the more difficult Christian life and that, although “it seems too wrong to be right,” it’s the only way to true life in the end.
1. Let You In
The mark of a good critic is not that he can rattle off objective standards of creativity or musical production but that he can convey what a certain piece of media means to him and how it may affect an individual rather than the whole. I bring this up because, looking back years later, I realize Kutless isn’t the most amazing band 14-year-old me once believed it was. Yet, “Let You In” still holds a special place in my heart. It was the first heavy song I ever fell in love with and whenever I hear it 14-year-old-old me fights to headbang and scream “open up and let you in!” at the top of his lungs. And each time I let him imitate Ryan Clark I’m filled with a dumb joy.
There are bands I’m ashamed to admit I liked when I was younger, but that doesn’t change the fact that at one time I did love them. They shaped my tastes and eventually developed my character. I was the fundamentalist who thought rock music was evil and ungodly and I’m thankful Kutless, Flyleaf, Thousand Foot Krutch, and others got me out of that hateful mindset. It was a sneaky rebellion back then, but maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing? Maybe the road to righteousness doesn’t go through a staunch and cold discipline of holiness but a rugged, dirty, shameful, human path?