Review Summary: Third time still wasn't the charm, but who cares?
The universal consensus is that King’s X is the most criminally underappreciated band in the history of hard rock. While the airwaves replaced faceless hair-metal bands with faceless post-grunge bands and faceless nu-metal bands they constantly ignored this Texan trio who consistently, over the course of twenty years, have churned out brilliant music and cultivated a rabid and devoted cult-following. Their brand of music has never really been ‘in style’ despite overtly having everything that a hard rock fan could want. You want instrumental virtuosity? They have it. You want a powerful and compelling lead singer? They have two! You want ultra-heavy guitars? They have it. You want infectious melodies, harmonies and hooks? They have it, and then some. You want incredibly tight live performances? They have it, and if you don’t believe me ask AC/DC, Deep Purple or Living Colour. What then is/was/will be the problem? Your guess is as good as mine.
“Faith, Hope, Love” is the band’s third studio album arriving on the heels of their tragically overlooked classic “Gretchen Goes to Nebraska”. While it isn’t as good an offering as the previous album, you can’t really blame the band because replicating the standards achieved on “Gretchen” would be near impossible for any band. The band simplifies its sound somewhat compared to the previous album and isn’t as adventurous. However, in the process they solidify what will forever be known as the King’s X sound. Sonically, this occupies the area between Hendrix, Rush and The Beatles. Does that sound weird to you? Maybe it is, but King’s X doesn’t think so and this album proves it.
Guitarist Ty Tabor appears to draw most heavily from Hendrix and Alex Lifeson as influences but manages to combine the former’s groove with the latter’s melodicism in a way that never seems derivative of either. This approach is best characterised by “We Are Finding Who We Are’ and ‘We Were Born to be Loved’ the latter of which somehow incorporates odd time signature, stop-start riffing with the augmented 9th chord which is better known as “Hendrix chord” or “Purple Haze chord”. His calling card however is the use of riffs with ringing open strings like the riffs of “The Fine Art of Friendship” and “Mr. Wilson” and the use of drop-D tuning which makes the riffs heavy without being overly aggressive. However, heaviness is not the only thing the band has to offer. There are some fine slower songs on the album such as the bordering-on-the-verge-of-power-ballad-cheesiness "I'll Never Get Tired of You", the contemplative "Everywhere I Go" and the gorgeous "Six Broken Soldiers".
While Tabor impresses the most, musically speaking, he is more than ably supported by the rhythm section Dug Pinnick’s rumbling 12-string bass and Jerry Gaskill’s steady and tasteful-without-being-flashy drumming. Indeed, one of the high(est) points on the album is the joyous up-tempo rocker “Moanjam” which finds the band cutting loose and putting the pedal to the metal after a few contemplative and moody slower songs.
Regardless of whether the song is mellow or raucous, the focus of the band is always on melody. Pinnick and Tabor take turns singing lead vocals, but are constantly and ably supported by the harmonization of the other band members. While Pinnick and Tabor have very different voices, the former’s being much weightier and more soulful and the latter’s being lighter and ‘sweeter’, the band sports the incredible ability to blend their voices seamlessly. Gaskill is an unsung hero in this regard as his voice lies somewhere between his band members in tone and he seems to provide the glue in these harmonies. “It’s Love” is probably the most representative song on the album and combines some of Tabors most memorable riffs and solos with some of the bands most stunning power-pop harmonies.
The album is so consistent that it’s equally hard to pick out highlights or nitpick with it. One problem is the production on the album, which makes the band sound a tad overproduced and doesn’t give the music the same weight and heaviness that it had on “Gretchen”. This is confusing considering the energy and tightness of King’s X live shows. Also, the band doesn’t experiment as much as it did on “Gretchen”. The only real experimentation is on “Legal Kill” which is simple and beautiful with uses a combination of acoustic guitars, string section and flute in a way that’s vaguely reminiscent of the use of sitars in “Gretchen’s” magnificent closer, “The Burning Down”. However, the title track’s 9-minute attempt to be majestic and mysterious fails with the song outstaying its welcome.
These are minor quibbles in an otherwise outstanding performance by the band. On this album King’s X shows over and over again why they are the best kept secret in Hard Rock, Progressive Rock, Funk Rock, Power-Pop or whatever other genre King's X chooses to be in.
Six Broken Soldiers
We Are Finding Who We Are