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King's X: XV

Back in 1988, I experienced an epiphany when I purchased a cassette copy of Out of the Silent Planet, the crunchy debut release by King's X, at my favorite indie record store in Waukesha, Wis. (sadly, it's gone now). In fact, it's no exaggeration when I say my life changed driving home that night. Listening to songs like "King," "Goldilox" and "Far, Far Away," my ears were opened to new sounds and new approaches to making and listening to music.

Hard to believe that 14 King's X discs have come and gone since then that fateful album -- some better than others. But even more remarkable is that the trio has remained intact all this time, and that the vocals-heavy XV ranks among the strongest V albums in the band's catalog. The band opens this glorious blast of unconventional melodic hard rock and heavy metal with "Pray For Me," a groovy anthem that hearkens back to those early King's X records both thematically in the searching-for-faith theme and musically with its instant hooks and sets the tone for what's to come. Much of XV alternates between bassist and vocalist Doug ("Dug"?) Pinnick's grinding and edgy songs ("Rocket Ship," "Go Tell Somebody") and guitarist and vocalist Ty Tabor's more melancholic tunes ("Repeating Myself," "I Just Want to Live"). Pinnick also settles into a blues-rock vibe on "Broke," while Tabor lets loose on the "ah-ah-ah" harmonies of "I Don't Know." Meanwhile, Jerry Gaskill remains one of rock's greatest unheralded drummers.

The members of King's X say they took their time making XV, and it arrives three years after another solid album, Ogre Tones. All of the songs were written in advance of heading into the studio, and once King's X got there, all three members collaborated to give each of these songs that certain "X" factor. Pinnick, Tabor and Gaskill sound like they had the time of their lives making this album, hustling anyone who happened to be in the studio at a given time into the booth to lay down vocal tracks and inject the album with additional layers. The result is one of the fullest sounding, least predictable and most celebratory albums in the King's X catalog.

Track Listing:
1) Pray
2) Blue
3) Repeating Myself
4) Rocket Ship
5) Julie
6) Alright
7) Broke
8) I Just Want to Live
9) Move
10) I Don't Know
11) Stuck
12) Go Tell Somebody
13) Love and Rockets (Hell's Screaming) (Bonus Track)
14) No Lie (Bonus Track)

Added: May 19th 2008
Reviewer: Michael Popke
Related Link: Official King's X Web Site
Hits: 5691
Language: dutch

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King's X: XV
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2008-05-19 09:32:41
My Score:

XV is King's X's fifteenth release, not album per se. Up to now, they've put out eleven studio albums, one best-of, and two live discs. Therefore, this is their twelfth album.

Interestingly enough, like in the old days of cassettes, the album is divided into Side A and B, both of which contain six tracks, plus two bonus songs attached to the end. Once again, all hallmarks of the King's X sound are perfectly delivered, from the multiple vocal harmonies to in-your-face guitar work to solid-as-a-rock rhythm workout. As is the case with every King's X album, in between these numbers there are also slower-paced cuts, such as the simplistic pop of "Blue" and the Ty Tabor-sung "Repeating Myself", with its beautiful acoustic guitar arrangement and smooth vocal lines. Thick with harmony at the end, the guitars ringing beneath the vocals are truly beautiful.

Then there is the driving rhythm of the album opener "Pray", which immediately ventures into groove-inflicted territory, complete with fuzzy bass sounds, eerie percussion, and pyschedelic guitar voicings. The production is thick and heavy, and the harmonies are filled with hooks. Lyrically examining religion, and the way the guitars at the end emulate Doug Pinnick's vocals, the song sort of recalls their earlier body of work. In parallel, the vigorously syncopated rhythms of "Alright", chock full of grinding riffs and drum battery, give off the impression that the song was recorded in one take -- so powerful is its impact.

Other standouts also include "Julie", sung by Jerry Gaskill. With bluesy guitar parts, a poppy clean voice, and pounding bass arrangements, his vocals are clear as a bell, and the brief yet intense instrumental break offered here is perhaps the highlight of the album. That said, my favourite tune has to be the politically charged "Move" with its gruelling bass intro and steady, almost machine-like drumming. The chorus is simply awesome and lets Pinnick pour out the rage that built within.

There are also shorter pieces, which barely break the three-minute mark, like the rigid execution of "Rocket Ship", the instantly memorable "Stuck" (check Pinnick's chants at the end), and the hilarious "Go Tell Somebody", a tune that will get the crowds going on stage. Those anticipating Ty Tabor's softer side coming to the fore will be pleased with both the Beatles-like "I Don't Know", whose ending recalls early King's X; and the moving "I Just Want to Live", detailing lyrics of struggles of life.

As with Ogre Tones, the CD was produced by Michael Wagener and sounds organic and fresh, perhaps more so than its predecessor. The fact that so many others were asked to partake in the choruses has certainly enriched the harmonies in these tunes. Also, this time around, the band went into the studio after having written all the songs, which has resulted in a more unified work overall.

Of the two bonus tracks, "Love and Rockets (Hell's Screaming)" certainly commands your attention, particularly for its bass-centred groove construction.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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