For a band praised by one critic as "the future of Christian rock" and whose music has been compared to such secular stars as Nickelback, Creed, and Incubus, Kutless may surprise some fans with its new release, "Strong Tower."
The third disc from Kutless, who will be in concert Monday in Toledo with BarlowGirl and Stellar Kart, is a collection of praise-and-worship songs with a reverent attitude and a contemporary edge.
Those who have done their homework, however, know that although Kutless' latest effort seems like a major change from rock 'n' roll, it marks a return to the band's roots, when they first met at Warner Pacific College in Portland, Ore.
"We started out as a worship band in college," lead singer Jon Micah Sumrall said in an interview this week.
He said he and his band mates - Ryan Shrout, James Mead, Kyle Mitchell, and Kyle Zeigler - were apprehensive at first when their record label asked them to consider making a praise-and-worship album.
"We were just a little concerned that it was a little too early [in our career]," Mr. Sumrall said. "It was a pretty drastic change and we wondered if it was too early to put something like this out."
The group's first two discs, a self-titled debut in 2002 and last year's "Sea of Faces," brought Kutless to the top of the Christian rock genre in a hurry, producing such melodic hits as "Your Touch," "Tonight," "Passion," and "Sea of Faces."
The members of Kutless, who hold Bible studies and daily devotions while on tour, didn't let problems.
"When you put out a record, you just hope for the best," Mr. Sumrall said. "I don't know if we were entirely shocked by the success, but we definitely felt blessed. It's one of those deals where we all feel really blessed to see the success that we have.
"At the same time, it's all very relative. Compared to some bands, what we've experienced is not very much at all. On the flip side, we have seen more success than a lot of bands. But it's not like we've reached the pinnacle of where we can go. We just seek to do the best we can and if the Lord blesses it, awesome. If not, you just do the best you can."
While worship songs have been an integral part of Kutless' musical makeup, Mr. Sumrall said the group wanted to capture a sense of awe and excitement with "Strong Tower," giving a unique spin to such popular praise songs as "Draw Me Close," "Better Is One Day," and "We Fall Down."
"Our goal was to make a new, fresh, revolutionary sounding record," Mr. Sumrall said. "There's a certain sound that you hear on worship CDs nowadays, and we wanted to break outside that sound."
The name of the band, by the way, was inspired by Jesus' suffering, Mr. Sumrall said.
"The idea is that when Christ died on the cross, he bore all our bruises. Because of Him, we are 'cut-less,'●" he said, adding with a laugh: "We're definitely not named after the car."
Kutless, BarlowGirl, and Stellar Kart will be in concert at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Mill, 5115 Glendale Ave. Tickets are $14 in advance and $18 at the door. Information: 419-389-0893.