Kutless began as a campus worship band called Call Box in Portland, Oregon in 1999. In the Fall of 2001 they took on their new name and in 2002 they released their self-titled debut full length album. In 2005 they released their third studio album, STRONG TOWER (BEC Recordings). On the album produced by Aaron Sprinkle and executive produced by Brandon Ebel, Kutless is: Jon Micah Sumrall, Ryan Shrout, James Mead, Kyle Mitchell, and Kyle Zeigler. It peaked at #4 on the Billboard Christian Albums chart and #87 on the Billboard 200. Here, I am reviewing the standard edition of STRONG TOWER.
Chris Tomlin’s ‘We Fall Down’ is first up. Here, it is a rock anthem exalting Christ: “We fall down/We lay our crowns at the feet of Jesus.../We cry holy, holy, holy/Is the Lamb”. ‘Finding Who We Are’ is about discovering ourselves in God: “In You we’re living/In You we’re moving/In You we’re finding who we are.../We lift our hands and seek Your presence/And find ourselves in who You are”. Dave Browning wrote ‘Take Me In’ which was also on Petra’s first praise project. It serves as a prayer: “Take me past the outer courts/In to the holy place/Past the brazen altar/Lord, I want to see Your face.../Take me in to the holy of holies/Take me in by the blood of the Lamb/Take me in to the holy of holies/Take the coal, touch my lips, here I am”.
Lead singer Jon Micah Sumrall wrote ‘Ready for You’, an adult contemporary ballad of surrender: “I am ready for You/Take my heart and make me new now/I am ready for You to come and fill my soul/Cleanse all of my mind that is not of You/Break me, teaching me how to find rest in Your hands”. ‘Draw Me Close’ is given the rock treatment. If we’d all pray these words we’d be better off: “You’re all I want/Help me know You are near/You are my desire/No one else will do/No one else can take Your place/To feel the warmth of Your embrace”.
‘All Who Are Thirsty’ is a warm song of invitation: “All who are thirsty, all who are weak/Just come to the fountain/Dip your heart in the stream of life/Let the pain and the sorrow/Be washed away in the waves of His mercy”. Matt Redman’s ‘Better is One Day’ is next. Here, it’s a rock ballad about intimacy with Father God: “My soul doth long and even faints for You/For here my heart is satisfied/Within Your presence/I sing beneath the shadow of Your wings/Better is one day in Your courts/Better is one day in Your house/Better is one day in Your courts/Than thousands elsewhere”.
‘All of the Words’ is an original adult contemporary ballad that includes these words of gratitude: “By Your grace You let me come and talk to You/It’s not that I’m worthy/I thank You Jesus/For the love that You have shown”. Mark Byrd, Mark Lee, Jon Micah Sumrall, and Aaron Sprinkle wrote the album’s title track, ‘Strong Tower’, a great rock anthem about finding refuge in our God: “I go running to Your mountain/Where Your mercy sets me free/You are my strong tower/Shelter over me/Beautiful and mighty/Everlasting King/You are my strong tower/Fortress when I’m weak/Your Name is true and holy/And Your face is all I seek”.
‘Jesus Lord of Heaven’ converses with Christ: “Jesus Lord of Heaven/I did not deserve the grace that You have given/And the promise of Your Word/Lord I stand in wonder of the sacrifice You made/With mercy beyond measure/My debt You freely paid”. Brian Doerksen’s ‘I Lift My Eyes Up’ is given a meaty rock spin and comes from the Psalms: “I lift my eyes up unto the mountains/Where does my help come from?/My help comes from You/Maker of heaven/Creator of the Earth”.
‘Word of God Speak’ was penned by Bart Millard and Pete Kipley and was originally on MercyMe’s 2002 release SPOKEN FOR. It’s a song of petition: “Word of God speak/Would You pour down like rain?/Washing my eyes to see Your majesty/To be still and know that You’re in this place/Please let me stay and rest in Your holiness/The Word of God speak”. Last up is Craig Musseau’s ‘Arms of Love’. It is, well, a love song to God: “I sing a simple song of love to my Savior, to my Jesus.../Cause there’s no place I’d rather be/Than in Your arms of love/In Your arms of love/Holding me still, holding me near/In Your arms of love”.
STRONG TOWER is an album of mostly mid-tempo rock and adult contemporary numbers. While it is a pleasant album to listen to, I wouldn’t have minded the inclusion of two or three faster paced songs and more electric guitar solos. The majority of the songs are well done covers, but the originals fit in nicely. The main theme on the album is desiring intimacy with God and longing to be shaped by Him. Several of the songs exalt and worship Christ and God the Father. The musicianship and vocals are great, even where the lyrics lack creativity. I’m rating STRONG TOWER 90% and recommending it to fans of Jeremy Camp and J.P. Smits. For more info visit www.kutless.com or check out the band on facebook.