Review Summary: One of hard rocks best acts in their finest hour...
I was amazed to see this album only had one review on Sputnik. However, let me backtrack a bit, and say that this isn’t too surprising. King’s X remains to be one of the most criminally underrated hard rock bands of the last 3 decades. On their fifth release, we see King’s X tighten their sound considerably, putting out the heaviest, leanest recording of their career. A big part of the raw gritty nature of this album is due to producer Brendan O’Brien. Coming fresh off of Pearl Jam’s ‘Vs’ and Stone Temple Pilot’s ‘Core’, O‘Brien helped craft an album that sounds nothing King’s X’s previous albums.
The overall ‘blissful’ vibe of their previous work is overtaken by an utterly massive guitar sound, a snarling bass tone, and generally darker sound. The bands trademark harmonies are left intact, but the lyrical imagery this time around veers into much gloomier territory. I have seen many refer to this album as their ‘grunge’ album, probably due in part, to O’Brien, who was one of the most significant producers in the grunge movement. But make no mistake, this album falls squarely in the realm of metal, with the aforementioned guitars being ominously down-tuned and the low end of the bass being pushed to the forefront. That is not to say that King’s X didn’t previously have a heavy edge to them, but not to the extent of ‘Dogman’.
Musically, the band still maintains an absolutely wonderful balance in the material throughout the course of the album. The opening track, ‘Dogman’, spares no time in starting the album out with an absolutely crushing riff, Doug Pinnick’s soulful voice, and glaringly dejected lyrics. Out of the gate, they let you know this is going to be a decidedly different ride than their previous works. They wrap up ‘Dogman’ and the 2nd track ‘Shoes’ is an absolute reminder, that they haven’t lost their touch vocally. It begins with their trademark harmonies, going so far as to start a capella. It is one of the most optimistic sounding songs on the album and one of the most definitive tracks in their catalog.
The album maintains its buoyancy by continually repeating this process, moving back into the darker territory with track #3, ‘Pretend’, and then following that track with the first ‘ballad’ ‘Flies and Blue Skies’. The first half of the album is slightly stronger than the 2nd half, however, the entire album is solid. There are a few tracks that feel like filler, most notably, ‘Go To Hell’, which is a 52 second song that sounds like King’s X making a pointless attempt at some raunchy ‘punk’ rock.
One of the finest moments does come in the 2nd half of the album, ‘Cigarettes’. It is a poignantly depressing song, beginning with a ‘am-radio’ type of effect on the vocals and clean guitars, only to be slightly misleading when the chorus erupts full blast. It also features one of the finest solos on the album, thanks to guitarist, Ty Tabors, melodic, tasteful soloing. One of King’s X’s strongest points is the fact that they can maintain funk, soul, metal, and Beatle’s like harmonies, all within the course of one song. Ty Tabor and drummer, Jerry Gaskill, provide wonderful harmonies behind Doug Pinnick’s very affecting voice. They can veer into progressive rock without ever losing the listener and can make the simplest 3 chord songs sound huge. It would be irresponsible to try and compare them to any other band, because there is no other band to give the listener an idea of what they are getting with this album. Only Rush comes to mind when it comes to a three piece band that can create a sound larger than a rock band with twice the members. King’s X has no peers, in terms of their sound, and they are in their finest hour on ‘Dogman’ making it an essential album to anyone who enjoys solid hard rock.