Personnel: Jon Micah Sumrall (vocals); Nick De Partee, James Mead (guitar); Joey Howard (trumpet); Jeff Gilbert, Corey Neal (drums); Natalie Taylor (background vocals).
Audio Mixers: Chad Howat; Reid Shippen; J.R. McNeely; J.R. McNeeley.
Liner Note Author: Thomas Nelson.
Recording information: Crossroads Studio, Vancouver, WA; FabMusic, Franklin, TN.
Photographer: Lee Steffan.
A decade on from their self-titled 2002 debut and Portland, Christian rock quintet Kutless appear to have almost entirely abandoned the post-grunge sound which initially saw them compared to the likes of Creed, Staind, and 3 Doors Down. Produced by Grammy nominee Chris Stevens, David Garcia (Carrie Underwood), and worship leader Dave Lubben, their seventh album, Believer, instead continues their journey into soaring soft rock on 13 spiritual tracks which attempt to explore "what it really means to surrender to Christ." The driving new wave of "This Is Love," the string-soaked "Identity," and the anthemic worship rock of "Carry On" all temporarily fill the current Goo Goo Dolls-shaped hole on the AOR scene, but occasionally, their more radio-friendly approach borders on the clichéd, particularly on the inspirational "Hero," which could be mistaken for an American Idol winner's single, and the overwrought lighters-in-the-air balladry of the title track. Their occasional ventures into rougher and rawer territory may be no less derivative, but they at least allow frontman Jon Micah Sumrall to showcase his gritty, angsty vocals in full flow, whether it's the chant-led '80s-inspired dad rock of "If It Ends Today," or the explosive Foo Fighters-esque "Need." Believer is still as thought-provoking as you'd expect it to be, but fans of their early work may be disappointed that Kutless now seem content to embrace their elder statesman of contemporary Christian rock status. ~ Jon O'Brien