When a band’s first priority is to declare God’s glory through song, it doesn’t worry too much about fitting into one particular genre of music. Perhaps that’s why some fans have alternating definitions of Kutless, the best-selling rock . . . , no, worship . . . no, rock/worship hit makers from Portland, OR. On the inspiring new studio album Glory, its eighth with BEC Recordings, a perfect balance is struck as lead singer Jon Micah Sumrall, guitarists James Mead and Nick de Partee, and drummer Kyle Peek celebrate with electrifying abandon not their collective identity but the mighty name of Jesus.
“Our goal with Glory was simply to worship louder and clearer than ever before,” de Partee says of the amped up and sometimes stripped down set. “We felt led to create original songs that could be sung on an acoustic guitar in a Bible study or in an arena with the masses shouting God’s praises.”
Much of that motivation for Kutless came from recently reading the book of Revelation together at church. The epic scenes of heavenly worship in scripture, where all creatures unanimously exalt God and bring glory to His name, don’t quite match today’s often plaintive, introverted worship.
“There’s such a joy in Revelation where it describes the voices of many angels and everyone in heaven and on earth worshiping the Lord,” says Mead. “We discussed the way that enthusiastic response to God’s presence is kind of how people react to rock music. As a band known for rock and worship music, this put a desire in us to write some really powerful, uplifting, victorious songs!”
With two gold albums and 12 No. 1 radio hits already charted—including “Strong Tower,” “What Faith Can Do,” and “Carry Me to the Cross”—that fresh challenge for Kutless to reach a new level of creativity writing music with heaven in mind would prove to be an exciting experience.
Indeed, the heart of worship beats strong from the start on Glory as the telltale anthem “Revelation” kicks in with gang vocals, crackling guitars, and lyrical passages that nod to the Bible’s vivid throne room imagery. “We Lift You Up,” “Rest,” and “Always” are other standout band compositions, pounding and racing with action movie soundtrack speed and ferocity that never distracts from the heartfelt main message. Enjoy keeping up: this is praise with an undeniable passion and pulse.
“We love worship. We love rock. Instead of separating the two styles, now we just do worship songs that rock,” Sumrall says with a laugh. “I’ve felt that need myself for more upbeat songs as a music leader at church. There aren’t a lot of selections that come out swinging. I hope this album provides energetic new song choices for other worship leaders and listeners alike. Everyone can sing along.”
Track for track, Glory confirms Kutless spent more time writing together than ever before, making a decided effort at the outset to construct simple, memorable melodies that would find power in the words they carry and the music surrounding them—a natural combination of worship and rock.
“We’ve come to realize on this record that there is no point in trying to separate those two elements of the band,” explains Mead. “Really, those two combined are the core of who we are as Kutless.”
Even in the slowed down moments on Glory, there’s a lot of musical muscle that can be credited to Sumrall’s pleasing signature voice and the confident, creative playing of new drummer Peek who was previously a member of American Idol winner David Cook’s band. Grace, grit, and grandeur coexist on booming mid-tempo highlight “In Jesus’ Name” and the defining first single, “You Alone.”
“A lot of Christians have watered down the singularity of the gospel. That tends to be a theme these days,” says Sumrall. “But there’s only one God, and he alone is worthy of glory and praise. We see all throughout the Bible people trying to add different paths to salvation, but it never works out.”
de Partee adds, “We want to point every single listener to the simple yet powerful truth that God alone deserves our worship. We have hope and peace only through what he has done through Jesus Christ, and that’s the point of songs like ‘Revelation,’ ‘You Alone,’ ‘All to You,’ and ‘Restore Me.’ It’s all about the glory of God.”
The guys in Kutless know not everyone who hears their music will be in a close relationship with God. For that reason the band decided to record “Never Too Late” as a means of outreach on Glory.
“Kutless has a growing heart for evangelism. It’s important to reach out to those who don’t know God yet, those who may be struggling with something and who feel like they can’t worship him,” says Sumrall. “This song is a simple invitation to repent and turn, to let God forgive, heal, and restore you.”
That theme grows from the individual to the masses on Glory’s closing statement, “In the City,” an unplugged song that nevertheless showcases a powerful blending of guitars and percussion, and rocks the listener with a poetic prayer of hope and truth: Bless this city in Jesus’ name / Let your healing fall like rain / God you gave us everything / May your church do more than sing.
“The songs on Glory are easy to learn, and we really hope they will be useful to worship leaders and a blessing to the church,” concludes Sumrall. “But we know none of it matters if people don’t come to know the Lord. In the studio, on the stage, and one on one, Kutless is just striving more and more every day now to bring the focal point onto the gospel.”
Look for Kutless this spring on the “Change a Life Tour” with Audio Adrenaline sponsored by Food for the Hungry. There’s going to be plenty of God-glorifying worship, and it’s going to rock.