Review Summary: Kings indeed.
None of us really deserve King's X. For over twenty years, they've regularly blessed us with their signature brand of soulful hard rock, releasing an album every two years or so. It's really much more than could be expected, considering the immense pressure on the band to "make it" in the early days, coupled with the loss of support from their Christian fanbase. Yet, ultimately, that hardship may be what has contributed to their longevity. As diamonds are created by the crushing weight of the earth, the crushing weight of disregard and vilification created a rock band for the ages. Though they'll likely never be spoken of in the same hallowed tones as rock stalwarts like Queen or Led Zeppelin, King's X have earned a place among them. Ogre Tones is a testament to this, showing off their tight ensemble playing, expert songcraft, and work ethic.
Ogre Tones is, in many ways, a product of the band's entire career. Their signature pop-metal anthems dominate the album; indeed, songs such as "Alone" and "Fly" typify the King's X sound. The band comes across as much more laid-back and contemplative than they used to, but they still exude a youthful energy and optimism. For a time, the cynicism and anger of Dogman seemed to be the band's new normal, but here those emotions have mellowed out, showing an obvious maturation. The lyrical content of "Freedom" and "Get Away" harken back to this era, but the band no longer sounds as bitter as they did in the 90s. Musically, they sound rejuvenated, marrying the blues-based, groovy rock of their recent albums with touches of psychadelia and funk that take the listener back to their early days. The influence of British pop is stronger here than it has been in years, as evidenced by the classic three-part vocal harmonies. As always,
each member turns in a phenomenal performance, with Ty Tabor's chunky riffs and Doug Pinnick's soulful howl dominating while Jerry Gaskill's skillful drumming holds it all together.
Ogre Tones finds the members of King's X grappling with the passage of time and its effects. Though the first half of the album is comprised almost entirely of upbeat rockers, the second half shows greater variety and intropsection. We have the usual Tabor-sung acoustic ballad "Honesty", but the real highlight here is the deceptively vicious "Get Away". Here, Pinnick offers his strongest rebuke to God, asking, "Why are your people so ***ing mean?" Despite the many years since his initial coming-out, the feelings of rejection and alienation linger. Elsewhere, the plodding blues of "Sooner or Later" gives way to psychadelia, and Doug resigns himself to the inevitable end of a relationship, while "Mudd" chronicles the death of a loved one. These men are definitely not the wide-eyed young boys they once were; King's X have seen it all and lived to tell about it, growing jaded for a time before making amends with their past. Yet the re-recording of "Goldilox" fittingly brings the listener back to the very beginning, signaling the start of a new era for this marvelous band. Nothing ever really ends, and there is always hope. In the end, Ogre Tones isn't a masterpiece, but it is an important album for the band and a wonderful listen. I personally can guarantee that they won't sing their last song without me.