Review: Kutless – ‘To Know That You’re Alive’

Posted: July 8th, 2008
Contributed By: Nick

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Release Date: June 24th, 2008 via BEC Recordings
Kutless is:
Jon Micah Sumrall
James Mead
Nick DePartee
Dave Luetkenhoelter
Jeff Gilbert

Overview: Portland, Oregon’s Kutless are no strangers to Christian music fans across the globe. Conceived in 2000 under the name Worship Box, the guys changed their name to reflect a Biblical verse they found moving. With all that figured out, Kutless soon found themselves with a recording contract, and they dropped their eponymous debut in late 2002. The band quickly found success, as their songs “Run” and “Your Touch” made tremendous waves throughout broadcast and online Christian radio markets. Kutless followed-up their promising debut with 2004′s ‘Sea of Faces‘, an album that spawned another pair of songs in “Treason” and “Sea of Faces” that were well embraced. Just eleven months later, Kutless went back to their roots, and actually DID, as their 2005 worship album ‘Strong Tower’ pays testament. Just as Sunday service subsided on ‘Strong Tower’, Kutless thrust album number four, 2006′s ‘Hearts of the Innocent‘ into the wild, which again brought the band a consistent level of accolades. With their longest break in between albums since 2002-2004 in the books, Kutless are at it again, this time with ‘To Know That You’re Alive‘.

The Good:Hearts of the Innocent‘ showed Kutless harnessing the way they approach their brand of rock, which resulted in a steadier, more accessible to the mainstream album without ditching their chunky riffs and healing message. On ‘To Know That You’re Alive‘, Kutless swims down a similar stream, but having gotten their bearings on ‘Hearts of the Innocent‘, the band has carte blanche this time around; Kutless makes sure to utilize their room to roam to maximum potential. ‘To Know That You’re Alive‘ swings into motion with the most odd, yet unique opening two songs I have heard in quite some time. Up first is “The Feeling”, an Offspring-inspired gate opener that wastes no time in revealing just how alive Kutless is. “The Feeling” is vivacious and full of life, getting your blood pumping and chest thumping for the latest installment of Kutless. The curt introduction is snuffed out as quickly as it arrived, giving way to its polar opposite in “Sleeping City”. An eerie orchestral waltz of piano and drums, “Sleeping City” is given some added mystique from the ghostly voices fluttering throughout its 70 second life cycle. With your listening senses left playing a guessing game, Kutless cuts into the title track, whose brooding introduction morphs into a hulky dose of spirited rock; the song is made irresistible by a frisky guitar riff that takes the foreground, and provides it with the hook it was previously missing. Put away your ointment and gauze, as Kutless only play Dr. Quinn on the Jekyll-Hyde named “The Disease & The Cure”. Driving and zippy, the stitches of the celestial bridge are ripped open violently for a splash ending, that scabs over and gets all better in a flash. “Complete” is Kutless’ “Rise Above This” (Seether), a blissfully melancholy revelation that sees a vulnerable Kutless standing strong without trampling any of the heightened emotion for which the song aspires. Venturesome and dynamic, the lyrical powerhouse that is “The Rescue” stays studios and refined until its late stages, where an absolutely killer scream at 2:59 scratches the tune’s personality change deep into its back. If you want to see what Hugo from Tantric’s greatest dream ever would sound like, tune in to “Promise You”. Haunting and placid, “Promise You” is God-awful infectious for a track of such serenity, a perennial underdog for a hit single. Powerful, close to home, and with a trophy-winning drum performance, “Promise You” keeps its word. With such a tough act to follow, “Guiding Me Home” needed to come up big; mission complete. Another closet hit, this touching acoustic piece is stacked high with mammoth harmonies, relieving “Promise You” with lights out poise. “Overcoming Me” is a meat and potatoes rocker whose biceps are bulked up by a recurring electronic flurries and colorful texturing both vocally and musically. ‘To Know That You’re Alive‘ might have a degree in astronomy, keeping the trend kicking with “I Do Not Belong”. Kutless uses the galactic brushstrokes as a springboard, floating through a synergy of carefully calculated vocals and oceanic guitars that canvas the entire landscape of the song. “Loud” isn’t earth-shattering, but it lives up to its billing. No bullshit and too legit to quit, “Loud” is graced by a split-second church organ cameo, which is really, really cool, not to mention getting you revved up for the home stretch. “Dying to Become” starts off starry-eyed and shimmering, slowly introducing tip-toeing vocals as the song turns in the Atlantic, expanding and generating more energy. “Dying to Become” peaks with a greater-than-Slash guitar solo, the high point of a movie-esque performance that would bankrupt Speilberg if put to screen. ‘To Know That You’re Alive‘ beats its heart one last time with “You”, vocalist Jon Micah Sumrall’s moment in the limelight. Sumrall never disappoints, delivering an inspiring vocal performance that wouldn’t be nearly as moving if not for the respectful pianissimo achieved by his fellow four band-mates. ‘To Know That You’re Alive‘ is quite the challenging record when it’s all said and done, a test that Kutless earns an A+ on, with extra smiley face and glittery star stickers attached for outdoing themselves.

The Bad:To Know That You’re Alive‘ could be a 10 if not for a few minor kinks in the plot. “Loud” is a solid tune, but sounds so awkwardly out of place, mincing its intentions into a dust that blows away without a trace. Lyrically, the themes of ‘To Know That You’re Alive‘ start to overlap, detracting from songs that were meant to speak with a bold, daring tongue. Other than a few moments where Kutless seem to be caught daydreaming in their own whimsical universe and a feeling of dependency on electronics that pops up from time to time, ‘To Know That You’re Alive‘ is on the ball.

Bottomline: Kutless push their boundaries and win with ‘To Know That You’re Alive‘, showing respect for their past and a visionary approach to their future. For those of you who are trying Kutless for the first time, be aware that the band will not beat you with a Bible, nor will they croon and preach you to death. ‘To Know That You’re Alive‘ is however kind. It is free of jealousy. It is unselfish. It is associated with honesty. It perseveres. It triumphs. And most of all, it is rock music full of faith, hope, adventure, and longevity.

Rating: 9 out of 10