In the new CD “Hearts of the Innocent,” Kutless uses both hard-hitting and mid-tempo rock to convey messages of encouragement.

In the new CD “Hearts of the Innocent,” Kutless uses both hard-hitting and mid-tempo rock to convey messages of encouragement. (Tooth & Nail)

After swinging between neo- grunge and pop-leaning rock in recent discs, Kutless has decided to put both styles to good use in its new CD.

Kutless initially won fans with aggressive modern rock but proved with “Sea of Faces” and “Strong Towers” that it could turn down the tempo and still deliver solid music with a message.

In the band’s new disc, “Hearts of the Innocent,” Jon Micah Sumrall’s voice is as powerful as ever — great for the songs that pack a sharper edge. An example is the title track, which warns adults that they have failed today’s youth. Sumrall cries out: “To see them hurting feels like knuckles to the back of my head.”

But Sumrall also delivers just the right air of vulnerability in the softer tracks, often accompanied by rich orchestral backing. The mellow and pleasant “Smile” features a discussion about “a faith that causes me to change.” “Promise of a Lifetime” recommends prayer amid pain because God uses those times to help a believer grow.

Overall, the disc is well paced so the harder and the softer styles never clash.

The disc encourages listeners to push aside fears and selfish concerns and embrace God, friends and a brighter future. For example, the disc closes with vintage Kutless in “Million Dollar Man,” which features Sumrall railing against materialism, and “Legacy,” which assertively states that a person’s past mistakes don’t dictate future failures.

Although the disc doesn’t really break any new ground, it definitely delivers solid, engaging music and thought-provoking lyrics.

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Deep breathsIf you need a reason to crank up the volume, check out Needtobreathe’s debut disc, “Daylight.”

The disc covers familiar territory, examining faith, relationships and everyday frustrations. However, these guys know how to pound out melodies and lyrics that carry you away.

The disc opens with “Don’t Wait for Daylight,” about grabbing opportunities before “the stars fade with the light.” The assertive “Quit” searches for answers. The triumphant “Shine On” urges “let the others see you’ve got your victory” in God.

Failures in human love prompt the pleas made in “Don’t Leave Just Yet” and the ultimatums issued in “Haley.” And aggressive guitar riffs accent the pain of the broken relationship in “I Knew It All.”

Among other highlights, “You Are Here” delivers soaring praise for God’s presence and “More Than” breaks into power chords when describing the need for a link to him.

It’s spring, a perfect time to roll down the windows and pop in Needtobreathe — unless it’s quiet hours in Germany.

On the

Today’s Praise is a roundup of news and reviews from the contemporary Christian music industry. It appears on the Religion page.

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