Review Summary: When it comes to King's X, the words 'heavy' and 'melodic' really cannot be used too much.
As everyone knows, hard rock in the early 90's was in a state of transition. Light-hearted party-rock as touted by the Poisons and Motley Crues of the world was on its way out and dark, angry, sludge-rock of the Alice in Chains and Soundgarden variety was on its way in, all the while making happiness and positivity passe. King's X mirrors this change in popular sensibilities with its self-titled fourth album. In contrast with their pervasively upbeat previous album, "Faith, Hope, Love" which, as the title no-so-subtly suggests, was dedicated to the values of faith, hope and love, "King's X" is a thematically somewhat dark record. However, King's X never sacrifice their melodic sensibilities or ethereal harmonies and turn in a record that is nearly as good as their 1989 classic, "Gretchen Goes to Nebraska".
“King’s X” finds the band experimenting more than it did on “Faith, Hope, Love”. The band’s trademark melodic heaviness returns on the pissed-off sounding “World Around Me” and “Black Flag”. However, the band pushes the heaviness envelope with the strangely titled “Ooh Song” which is sludgy and hypnotic and the heaviest thing King’s X had written thus far in their careers. This sludgy heaviness is also present on “What I Know About Love” but carried in a more psychedelic direction by the harmonies. The most straightforward rocker on the album is “Lost in Germany” whose snaky riff is as infectious as it is unpredictable and whose harmonically chanted bridge is unexpected but strangely fitting. However, despite the band continuing to prove that it is at the top of its game when creating melodic heavy metal, some of the album’s best moments are its slower, quieter moments. “Prisoner” is a superb combination of strummed clean guitars and slashing distorted riffs with guitarist Ty Tabor building the song to climax with a terrific solo.
The requisite instrumental virtuosity is, as always, hard to ignore, but where this album really shines is in the quality of its vocal performances. As opposed to the previous records where Tabor and bassist-vocalist Dug Pinnick took turns handling lead vocal duty, this time around Pinnick does most of the lead vocals while being supported, as ever, by the airtight harmonies of Tabor and drummer Jerry Gaskill. While some might think this would contribute to a lack of diversity on the album, Pinnick responds by turning in some of his best performances till date. From the gentle and soulful Smokey Robinson-ish falsetto of “The Big Picture” to the stunning range and power on display on “Silent Wind”, Dug’s vocals stand out on every song. While he doesn’t get centre stage as much as he did before, the record still finds Tabor playing to his own vocal strengths on the psychedelic “Dream in My Life”. The absolute highlight of the album comes out of nowhere on the somewhat atypical but anthemic “Not Just for the Dead” which combines sitar flourishes with a soaring call and response chorus and is guaranteed to get stuck in your head.
Overall, the band turns in a consistently superb record that’s not quite a classic due to the tendency of some songs to last a little too long for no apparent reason as well as the superfluous and chaotic Chariot Song which is an experiment in unpredictable weirdness that doesn’t work. One bad song aside, King’s X is still at the top of their game and provides yet another headscratchingly underrated collection of Progressive Rock/Power-Pop gems.
Not Just for the Dead
Dream in my Life
Lost in Germany