Review Summary: Rock's ultimate power trio push the envelope once again...
A couple of years and several whirlwind tours following “Gretchen”, King’s X return to take their distinctive sound to its apogee. Album 3 is a little longer, a little holier, and a little patchier than its celebrated predecessor.
If anything, “Faith, Hope Love” is more of everything – and the band is doing their best not to repeat themselves. Pinnick preaches with soul-drenched fire and brimstone, Tabor’s mad scientist guitar tones wail the paint off the walls, Gaskill’s toms and bass drum shake, rattle and roll endlessly, and the three-part harmonies add an air of unadulterated joy to the whole affair. It’s a work of dizzying heights. First single, the Beatles-esque “It’s Love” boasts some of Tabor’s most dazzling, evocative solos captured to date, particular in the final minute.
The stop/start Götterdämmerung of “We Were Born to Be Loved” grooves hard enough to be illegal in a few states, Pinnick’s dreadlocks flying like flames roasting heathens. The pedal-down double-bass-peppered exercise in storming jubilation entitled “The Moanjam” is a sensational culmination of all the band’s strengths, packed into one thrilling jam session. Tabor’s impeccably grandiose acoustic arrangement in the right-to-life anthem, “Legal Kill” is reminiscent of Brian May’s classic Queen track,“’39”, and the crisscrossing solos of “Mr. Wilson” are cut from the mold of “Killer Queen”. Lyrically, it became the most positive disc in my collection, nestled snugly between the pompy southern rock of Kansas and the planet-leather-pants thunder of Kiss. Ironically, I think I bought Deicide’s debut the same day.
It’s a bit overlong. Cuts like “I’ll Never Get Tired of You” (there's a Phil Lynott vibe to that title), the Gaskill-penned “Six Broken Soldiers” and the ludicrously long title track could have been shortened significantly. For some reason, I’ve always classified it next to ELP’s “Works” – an album loaded with stratospheric highs, setting up about 20 extra minutes of mediocre lows.
Years later, I read an interview with Ty Tabor, in which he cited the 1991 David Fricke Rolling Stone article as the moment that cratered the band, calling out (of all things) – their Christianity! Evidently, some promoters started holding back from booking them after it was published, considering them to be 'one of those God bands.' Not defending Fricke by any stretch, but the religious tendencies of King’s X had to be the worst kept secret
in rock. The first two records were a little more ambiguous – but by 1990...the album is called "Faith, Hope, Love" for Chrissake! Strange days indeed...
At any rate, the lyrics were anything but subtle. The message may have been off-puttting for some, but the style was courageous for any time in rock history. Far from the standard template of sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll – King's X was becoming a musicians’ band, pure and simple. Not a big seller (maybe it was all too much for the standard rock fan to accept at the time), but we’re coming up on thirty years since the original issue, and to date nothing
sounds like this record.
The streak of quality would continue for several more years, these colossal talents continuing to push the envelope despite declining commercial success and changing pop/rock landscapes.