Sounds like … the familiar though popular neo-grunge rock and metal of bands like Nickelback, Jeremy Camp, Hoobastank, Day of Fire, Incubus, Falling Up, Lifehouse, and Building 429At a glance … though not a particularly innovative or unique album amid all the other melodic rock/metal bands, Kutless proves they at least do it better than most thanks to some stylistic variation and lyrics that avoid most of the usual clichésTrack Listing Hearts of the Innocent Shut Me Out Beyond the Surface Smile Promise of a Lifetime Winds of Change Somewhere in the Sky Mistakes Push Me Away Changing World Million Dollar Man Legacy

Since their 2002 national debut, Kutless has quickly become one of Christian rock's most popular bands while also taking more than a fair share of critical lumps—much of that in response to 2005's formulaic worship effort, Strong Tower. But some have pegged the Portland band as derivative ever since their first album and 2004's follow-up Sea of Faces.

The varied responses beg the question: Does a band have to be innovative to be good? That depends on one's definition of "innovative," but there's not much unique about Kutless' sound. They were one of the first to emerge on the scene as a Christian alternative to neo-grunge metal acts like Creed, Nickelback, and Incubus, and the style has continued to foster careers for the likes of Three Doors Down, Lifehouse, Hoobastank, Day of Fire, Seventh Day Slumber, Falling Up, and Building 429. Kutless clearly has plenty of competition, but to their credit, they handle grunge pop/rock better than most.

Hearts of the Innocent proves that much, anyway. Produced once again by Aaron Sprinkle, this fourth album falls somewhere between the straightforward grunge rock of the first album and the ambient pop touches on Sea of Faces. It also now officially brings together two of BEC's bands, adding the original rhythm section of Seven Places (drummer Jeffrey Gilbert and bassist Dave Leutkenhoelter) to the remaining founding members of Kutless (lead vocalist Jon Micah Sumrall and guitarists James Mead and Ryan Shrout). Listeners would be hard pressed to notice a difference in sound due to these changes, and perhaps that's best, though they do seem a little more confident in their identity as a band—definitely a recovery from Strong Tower, which wasn't really representative of their sound.

Fans looking for more of the same stuff that characterized the band's first two albums won't be disappointed. The title track, a plea for youth who suffer through the heartache of divorce and negligence in a family, sounds more effortless than forced in combining melody with heavy rock. "Shut Me Out" is a bold and catchy declaration of faith, while the thunderous "Somewhere in the Sky" enjoys the pleasures of the world we live in: "I thank God for our freedom/There's nothing wrong with enjoying things in life/Spread the word that a smile's not beyond us." Things get a little heavier with the sonic powerhouse "Legacy" and the hardcore influences of "Million Dollar Man," which warns against the perils of materialism.