"XV" (InsideOut; 2008)

Reviewed by Mike SOS

Arguably the most soulful hard rock act on the scene today, the veteran trio King's X return with a revitalized sound on "XV," their 15th studio album. This powerful release is propelled by their trademark blues-rock swagger, brazen grooves and expert songwriting chops working overtime on tracks like the mellow yet intense "I Don't Know," the ready-for-rock-radio drive of "Alright," the syrupy guitars leading "Blue," and the airy "I Just Want to Live."

Add in the incredible vocal wail of Dug Pinnick on cuts like the metallic mosey "Free" and the hymn-like rocker "Go Tell Somebody" and King's X unfurl their big hooks, memorable vocal harmonies, and sophisticated compositions in a terse package, demonstrating that this world-class rock band's tried and true formula is not only intact, but remains as in-your-face with full force as any of their early work. 

Rousing and uplifting, King's X reaffirms your faith in rock'n'roll with this superbly focused return to form. 

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"Ogre Tones" (InsideOut; 2005)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

The general consensus over the last few years is that King’s X might have gotten a little off the path that made them successful. Albums such as “Manic Moonlight” and “Black Like Sunday” weren’t exactly revered by most fans who loved the sound that made King’s X so reverential in the first place (i.e. “Faith Hope Love” and “Gretchen Goes To Nebraska”). And to some extent many of those same fans would argue that “Tape Head” and “Please Come Home … Mr. Bulbous” weren’t that much better – however, I think those two albums were pretty decent in the grand scheme of things.

The build up to the latest King’s X release, “Ogre Tones,” has been very public and very hyped by those involved with King’s X. The build up was almost to the point that the anticipation was too high and that “Ogre Tones” was being set up for failure for being as good as the band’s greatest works.

The first seven songs of “Ogre Tones” are particularly strong – these tracks come off like classic King’s X songs every which way. What’s interesting is that, while the songs echo the band’s past, they don’t sound too dated. These songs capture a creative energy that has been lacking in the past and manages to sound fresh and invigorating. Finally, one of the nicest surprises is “Honesty” which predominantly features Ty Tabor playing acoustic guitar which hasn’t been heard in a long time on a King’s X record.

Comparatively speaking, the second half of “Ogre Tones” is a bit weaker, The second half of the disc still offers some of the more interesting sounds the disc has to offer. Tracks like “Sooner Or Later” and “Mudd” -- while great additions to the overall impact of the record -- are somewhat lacking on their own. A track like “Open My Eyes” asks some pretty tough questions – and the answers aren’t easy.

My favorite track overall is “Fly” – it actually sums up my own personal philosophy a little bit in the way that the predominate lyric says “no matter what you do, somebody won’t like it.” I get that everyday. It’s nice to know that King’s X can take something that’s personal and make it seem universal. I also like the manic momentum created by “Bebop” – this track seems to take each member’s strengths into something that’s never been heard from the band.

Before completing this review I listened to “Tape Head,” “Please Come Home … Mr. Bulbous, ” “Manic Moonlight” and “Black Like Sunday” in sequence to give myself a better perspective of “Ogre Tones.” And my initial assessments still stand – “Ogre Tones” is King’s X returning to the band’s classic sound. Is “Ogre Tones” King’s X best record? No it isn’t, but it’s damn close.

“Ogre Tones” was produced by Michael Wagener. Wagener, who has produced some of the finest hard rock bands in history, seems to have done the penultimate producer job in helping King’s X hone their creative energies into a sound that evokes the band’s early days while still finding a comfortable place in the middle of the first decade of the 21st Century.

King's X: Dug Pinnick on bass and vocals, Ty Tabor on guitar and vocals, and Jerry Gaskill on drums and vocals.

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"Live All Over the Place" (Metal Blade / Brop!; 2004)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

I know it must seem at times that I am a one-man advertising guru for King's X here at Rough Edge, but that's how things go sometimes. King's X have had critical acclaim and praised heaped upon them since their first album was released back in 1988, but still the band has been criminally overlooked. Even I was able to see greatness in the band the few times MTV played their videos. But I got busy in my life and King's X fell off my radar screen – no doubt coupled with the fact that the labels King's X were on were probably unsure of how to market the band. Fate crossed my path in the form of a friend who insisted I listen to the current King's X album at the time ("Ear Candy") and I dutifully worked my way back through the King's X catalog.

"Live All Over The Place" features twenty-five tracks of King's X at their best (in actuality, it's a total of twenty-four songs as "Over My Head" appears both as an electric track and as a bonus acoustic track). The songs come alive in the live setting – and this doesn't mean that their studio counterparts aren't full of energy. If you've seen the band in concert you know this already – it should not come as a surprise. However, if you only have one King's X album or have never seen the band in concert you'll have undeniable proof that King's X are one of the great bands of this generation. Fans of the band will probably take exception to the track listing (see more below on this subject), but by and large the tracks flow effortlessly. Even the four tracks that close the first disc, selected from the oft-maligned project "Black Like Sunday," come off pretty well. 

What makes this live collection special is the acoustic set (seven songs total, not including the acoustic version of "Over My Head") that opens the second disc. The acoustic versions are special enough as this kind of set has only been performed over the last year or so in preparation for this particular live recording. However, the songs chosen for this set are particularly intriguing. Songs like "The Difference" and "(Thinking and Wondering) What I'm Gonna Do" really make this live recording interesting.

I do like the fact that a lot of Doug Pinnick's stage raps were seemingly kept intact. Doug's banter on songs like "Believe" and "Over My Head" go a long way to giving those listeners who haven't seen the band in concert a good feel for the true spirit of a King's X concert.

Unfortunately, no songs from the self-titled album or "Come Home Mr. Bulbous" are included on this collection. I would have liked to hear "Lost In Germany" or "She's Gone Away" but I'm certain very few fans will be 100% happy with the song selection as King's X has a dedicated and fervent fan base.

I must make special note of the booklet. The booklet is chock full of photos. This is probably a bit unnecessary in the sense that nearly all the people who are likely to buy "Live All Over The Place" will have already seen King's X numerous times over the years and have some pretty indelible images of the band performing ingrained in their minds.

"Live All Over The Place" was produced by King's X and recorded by Jay Phebus.

King's X: Doug Pinnick on bass and vocals, Ty Tabor on guitar and vocals, and Jerry Gaskill on drums. Jeff Ament (Pearl Jam) plays bass on "Manic Depression."

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"Black Like Sunday" (Metal Blade / Brop! Records; 2003)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

As I've stated in previous reviews of King's X albums, it's a given that this stellar trio isn't going to repeat themselves from one album to the next. If the denizens of the music world didn't understand that notion up to this point they won't (or can't) forget it now. For "Black Like Sunday," King's X took the step of revisiting the more than 400 songs they'd written prior to the writing style adopted for the King's X moniker. Now, at first blush, that might sound like a cop-out or a blatant admission that the band had a bad case of writer's block, but the band was prodded by dedicated fans for the early material to be recorded and inspired by their own modus operandi to do something different with each album.

Given that the material on "Black Like Sunday" predates anything the band has released under the name King's X, one might be expected to cringe if the material wasn't up to the band's standards (or, hell, even the band's fan's standards!). But that's not the case. While some of the material on "Black Like Sunday" sounds a bit dated from song-structure and melody standpoint, the band took great pains to re-record the material with minimal revision to recapture a snapshot of the band's past with the added benefit of modern recording technology to lead the way.

"Black Like Sunday" finds the band exhibiting a carefree sensibility along with a celebration of the band's harder rocker origins. Song for song, "Black Like Sunday" displays a simpler and more direct approach to songwriting that was probably geared to attracting unsuspecting folks to the band's music.

Once again Doug Pinnick handles all the vocals (a trend started with 2001's "Manic Moonlight") and he does a magnificent job. Pinnick's rich voice covers more basic rock'n'roll styles on the fourteen tracks of "Black Like Sunday" without losing all the soulful elements that he developed throughout the early days of King's X. Ty Tabor sounds positively 'young' on these tracks as his guitar playing displays a fire not heard on recent albums while recording technology allows his unique cutting sound to literally leap out of the speakers. Jerry Gaskill, truly one of the world's vastly underrated timekeepers, does a superb job as always with his solid and inventive, yet not flashy, drumming.

King's X cover a broad spectrum of musical flavors on "Black Like Sunday." Covering every track is unnecessary, but here are a few comments to give you an idea of what I'm hearing. "Down" dips into ballad territory while "Won't Turn Back" revives the punk format for a King's X-like spin. "Two Words" has a hint of the 'classic' King's X sound while "Screamer" has Pinnick releasing inner demons through primal screaming (a sound not heard in a King's X song in a while). "Save Us" is a neat encapsulation of the band's broad and open-minded philosophy while the sparse and expansive jam of "Johnny" gives King's X ample space to let a slow groove take hold of the band's creative powers and push it to uncharted territory.

Dedicated fans of King's X will be pleasantly surprised by what "Black Like Sunday" has to offer. Casual fans of the band will probably appreciate "Black Like Sunday" more than King's X last three albums. Of course, it goes without saying that "Black Like Sunday" doesn't recapture the glory of "Gretchen Goes To Nebraska" or "Faith Hope Love" but it wasn't designed to either. "Black Like Sunday" captures a band rediscovering its vibrant past, reveling in it, and celebrating it for all it's worth.

"Black Like Sunday" was produced by Ty Tabor and King's X.

King's X is Doug Pinnick on vocals and bass, Ty Tabor on vocals and guitar, and Jerry Gaskill on drums and vocals.

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"Manic Moonlight" (Metal Blade; 2001)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

King's X are one of the few bands that can make their singular style sound completely different on each new release. After the subtle freak-out of "Please Come Home ... Mr. Bulbous" King's X get trippy, ambient, a bit atmospheric, and dabble with the yin-yang of samples and an organic approach with "Manic Moonlight."

The nine songs on "Manic Moonlight" were written by starting out with Doug and Jerry's jams forming the foundation for Ty to overlay his signature guitar riffs and supple loops. This different writing approach has provided a fresh creative vein for the band to explore. Some diehard fans might be startled at the fact that very few of the songs on "Manic Moonlight" have immediate appeal.

Even when King's X retain their classic sound on "False Alarm" Doug Pinnick gives his voice a fresh spin - hell, I thought it was Ty singing, but such was not the case. In fact, the whole CD is sung by Pinnick, but you'd hardly recognize his voice if you weren't paying attention. Pinnick did a decent job reinventing his voice on nearly every single track.

The disc ends with "Water Ceremony," which rivals their own tuneless ditty "Walter Bela Farkas (Live Peace New York)" from 1999's "Tape Head," for pointlessness by a great band.

Without a doubt all diehard King's X fans will be charmed by the different forays and techniques of "Manic Moonlight" while casual fans will still be puzzled by King's X inability to repeat themselves. 

King's X is Doug Pinnick on bass and lead vocals, Ty Tabor on guitar, loop programming, and backing vocals, and Jerry Gaskill on drums and backing vocals.

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"Please Come Home ... Mr. Bulbous" (Metal Blade; 2000)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

I'm not prone to envy, but King's X makes me feel envy like I've never felt it before. I'm envious that three people can make music that reverberates to the core of my soul. I'm envious that the band's harmonies are sweet and perfect. I'm envious that the band can rock hard as well as play quiet tunes with a flair for unforgettable melodies. But above all, once you remove the envy, there's nothing but admiration for the achievements of King's X.

King's X have returned with "Please Come Home ... Mr. Bulbous" their seventh full-length CD of new music. Doug Pinnick, Ty Tabor, and Jerry Gaskill are craftsmen of the highest order; musical artisans, if you will, of most excellent substance. "Please Come Home ... Mr. Bulbous" is not quite a stylistic return to the days of "Gretchen Goes To Nebraska" as King's X doesn't really repeat themselves, but the new CD returns the band to a place that best utilizes their individual talents as a group.

Someone who had heard an advance copy of the CD told me that "Please Come Home ... Mr. Bulbous" played like a heavy Beatles record; after listening to it with open ears nothing could be more truthful. Beatles-esque melodies pop up all over the songs with the traditional King's X hard rock elements. "Fish Bowl Man" just might be my favorite song of the new millennium. The quirky pop melody madness of "Charlie Sheen" offsets the dirty guitars and hard rock stratosphere of "Marsh Mellow Field," "Move Me" and "Smudge."

Doug Pinnick's vocals are soulful and burning; Ty Tabor turns in a good lead vocal performance on "She's Gone Away" as well. Jerry Gaskill's backing vocals are an integral part of the King's X sound. The vocal harmonies and lyrics are stacked in layers provoking repeated listens to discern all the nuances and crannies. 

Doug Pinnick's bass work returns to supple yet solid foundations. Ty Tabor's guitar and keyboard work is clever, yet not too out-of-the-ordinary. Jerry Gaskill's drumming is impeccable as always.  Once again, the lyrics find King's X treading the emotional and spiritual occurrences of everyday life. "Move Me" is an invitation to a higher power to show some evidence that some things are actually out of human control. The delightful surrealism of "Fish Bowl Man," a critique on spiritual vacancy in "She's Gone Away," a search for a savior on "Marsh Mellow Fields," and the troubles of being confident in modern times on "When You're Scared." 

"Please Come Home ... Mr. Bulbous" is irresistibly great; it's a wonderful addition to the King's X legacy.  

"Please Come Home ... Mr. Bulbous" was produced by Ty Tabor and King's X.  Clearly the band is beginning to feel more comfortable with production; no doubt Ty's work with Platypus and Doug's solo effort Pound Hound have increased the band's skills in the control room. 

King's X is Doug Pinnick on bass and lead vocals, Ty Tabor on guitar and vocals, and Jerry Gaskill on drums and vocals. 

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"Tape Head" (Metal Blade; 1998)kingsxtape.jpg (16680 bytes)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

King's X have a new label, a newly found sense of simplicity, and a wonderful new album. The stripped-down nature of the songs have brought out the core emotion of each song. Using an approach by which each song was basically created in the studio by all three band members, King's X have created a powerful work that is beautiful in its clarity.  Doug Pinnick's distinctive voice and bass lines, Ty Tabor's virtuoso guitar, and Jerry Gaskill's inventive drum grooves really make an impact on "Tape Head."

Highlights of the disc include the intro track "Groove Machine," the insistent "Higher Than God" and the positive "Happy." "Groove Machine" clearly sets the mood for the disc with its hard rock riff and Pinnick's sinewy vocals understating the heavy groove created by the elegant drums and near-psychedelic guitar solo. The near-sinister verse of "Higher Than God" is offset by an unrelenting chorus that questions a failed relationship. "Happy" provides a message to remain positive in the face of long odds that life presents to us each day. The background vocals and harmonies provided by Jerry Gaskill and Ty Tabor serve to support Doug Pinnick's great voice and at every turn on the disc Gaskill and Tabor add beautiful harmonies to the songs.

When you get right down to it, there are no weak tracks on "Tape Head." This is a thoroughly enjoyable listening experience.

King's X produced themselves on "Tape Head" to capture the essential sound of the band without any outside distractions and influences.

For more information visit the King's X website at

Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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Copyright © 2008 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.