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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

Sea of Faces

  • reviewed by Andree Farias Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2004 1 Feb
Sea of Faces
Sounds like … Linkin Park's electronic influences and a melodic rock mold similar to Puddle of Mudd, Nickelback, and 3 Doors DownAt a glance … Though Kutless have stretched beyond the confines of their post-grunge debut, Sea of Faces is still not the album that defines them as a bandTrack ListingLet You InAll AloneBetter for YouSea of FacesNot What You SeePassionPerspectivesTreasonAll the WordsTroubled HeartIt's Like Me

Kutless has been vital to the commercial resurgence that BEC Recordings has enjoyed in the past couple of years. Their 2002 self-titled debut was the best-selling rock debut of that year, a feat fueled by an arduous touring schedule and popular rock ("Your Touch") and pop ("Run") singles that filled the Creed-shaped void in Christian airwaves. Kutless was a pertinent surrogate for listeners aching for that thick, post-grunge crunch.

Unfortunately, it was these Creed-molded pretensions that also earned the band a good number of jaded, highbrow non-fans, despite its strong teen following. Teaming once again with producer Aaron Sprinkle (of Poor Old Lu fame), Sea of Faces seeks to disprove the critics' notion that the band was just following a market trend by sounding like the Scott Stapp-fronted Creed. The result is more melodic, less grungy output, reminiscent of surefire radio bands such as 3 Doors Down, Nickelback, and Puddle of Mudd, plus the use of DJ Hahn-inspired drum loops on occasion. These elements alone set it apart from their debut, which relied more on monotonic walls of sound and on vocalist Jon Micah's patent Stappisms than anything else.

This progression is evident in soft rocker "All Alone," a track that incorporates electric piano, fuzzy beats, and a programmed guitar recalling Linkin Park's hit "In The End," all working together to carry a simplistic God-to-man lyric: "If you would change your perspective … I'd be with you, and help you in all that you go through/I love you, let me change your heart by coming in." A similar electronic treatment is given to "Passion," a song that paints in vivid detail Christ's sacrifice, not unlike a little Mel Gibson film releasing a day after this album drops. By the time you reach "Not What You See," another loop-based track, Kutless is already a noticeably different band.

Sea of Faces shines brightly in its strong, memorable melodies. The title track is pure pop/rock bliss, with a driving, Live-worthy hook that just doesn't let go. It's also one of the more emotive tracks on the album, expressing how God pulls us out of a crowd in order to draw us to himself intimately. The robust melody, choral harmonies, and 3/4 time signature in "Perspectives" render it a terrific, bona fide single-in-the-making. Similarly, "All The Words" is a worshipful mid-tempo number, even if it makes use of the hackneyed idea of human words failing to express our love for our divine Creator.

That's not to say the boys don't flirt with the guilty pleasures of their past. Desires in conflict is the theme of "Treason," a riffy throwback to Kutless's older days, while "Let You In" utilizes unnecessary hardcore screaming at the tail end of each of its choruses. "Treason" in particular catches them at their lyrical peak, comparing our daily choices to treason committed against our Savior. Perhaps the most anthemic and Creed-ish track is the closer "It's Like Me," a cut whose soaring vocals and multiple layers of sound create an environment both grand and atmospheric.

Like many of their mainstream peers pining for the next alternative hit, Kutless isn't groundbreaking by rock standards, yet it's still embraced by thousands, appeasing those who make no qualms about liking music that's simultaneously simple and commercially appealing. And that's totally OK. The boys from Kutless are at least showing signs of taking baby steps toward establishing an identity of their own, one that's no longer mistaken for that of a band that was once cherished with arms wide open.