Just over a year after releasing their hugely successful Strong Tower, Kutless is back with release number four, in the form of Hearts of the Innocent. As the former was a bit of a side project to let the band play some modern worship fare, Hearts of the Innocent is the true follow up to 2004's Sea of Faces, which served as their sophomore release. In addition, it served as the album that made them big. True, they were the fastest selling debut artist in Tooth & Nail history, but Sea of faces put them on the map in CCM, and gave them massive mainstream appeal. The release of Strong Tower only furthered the fervor, and now the pressure is on to continue building the momentum that seemingly has no end and release another winning record.
While their debut was edgier, Sea of Faces was much more laid back and radio friendly. Hearts of the Innocent tries to take elements of both releases. Though it is melodic for the most part, on more than one occasion it intensifies (Even reaching somewhat of a "hardcore climax" with the opening riff of "Million Dollar Man"). Still, it's Kutless. If you liked previous entries in the Kutless library, you will no doubt enjoy this. If you were hesitant or uninterested, nothing about Hearts of the Innocent will in any way change your mind. Growth is apparent, but it simply sounds done before. And taking into account that Kutless never really sounded that original in the first place, with Jon Micah's Creed-ish vocals and crunching dropped D tuning, it's hard for moderates to stay interested.
However, there is still a valid point to be made concerning Kutless' popularity. These guys know how to write a song that appeals to people. Micah still struggles a bit when it comes to lyrics (A few moments on the record are just awkward), but for the most part, improvement is seen as clear as day; and a lot of the songs hit home. And with four albums under their belt now, they have made a somewhat generic sound their own. It may seem redundant and done before, or it might sound like Kutless, depending on your outlook.
Kutless fans can rejoice, and naysayers can again voice their disapproval. It's still Kutless, love them or hate them. Though noticeable improvements have been made, it's still Kutless, and there really is no other way to put it. That said, Hearts of the Innocent is their best record to date, and it'll be interesting to see where they go from here.- Review date: 03/19/06, written by Josh Taylor
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