InsideOut

REVIEW: King’s X – XV (2008)

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Complete studio albums (and more!), part 17 – the Final Chapter!


KING’X – XV (2008 InsideOut)

King’s X faced many setbacks over their long 30+ year career. Their last obstacle has been the hardest and most serious of all, and because of that, 2008’s XV album remains their most recent. That’s a tough pill to swallow, because for many fans XV was largely considered a return to form.

“Pray” immediately starts things right: face-crushing bass, a groove you can’t get out of, and a funky melody. You are transported back in time to the late 80’s and early 90’s, but with modern slants and production…and funk! The song boasts a soulful, powerful chorus just like the classics King’s X built their foundation on. What a satisfying opener. Peel yourself off the floor though, because it’s over before you know it and the next song “Blue” has launched. King’s X have always been successful at balancing their sound with soft songs, while maintaining their integrity.  It’s a great track sonically, though missing a killer chorus.  XV strikes me as the best produced King’s X album since the mighty Dogman.

Better than “Blue” is the gentle “Repeating Myself”, Ty Tabor’s first vocal outing on XV.  Everything is in its right place:  Ty’s delicate picking, the patented King’s X harmonies, and just a touch of Beatles-y psychedelia.  “Repeating Myself” is possibly the most perfect song King’s X had done in many years.  It melds perfectly right into “Rocket Ship”, a mid-tempo heavy rocker with “single” written all over it.  The 60’s psychedelia remains, but wrapped up in a heavy stomping riff. “Society-sanctioned brain-washing tries to wrap its arms around me,” sings Dug Pinnick, still unafraid to tackle issues in his words. Jerry Gaskill takes his first XV lead vocal on the lovely “Julia”. Another perfect song. It’s a ballad that reminds me of everybody from the Beatles to Shaw-Blades and Motley Crue, of all people. Then it’s foot to the gas on the irresistible “Alright”. This is a classic King’s X rocker, but this time with gang vocals on the chorus. It’s gangbusters. One of the catchiest King’s X songs yet.

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Greasy blues rock guitar kicks off “Free” with an unusually simple Gaskill beat behind it. This transforms into possibly the most soul-infused King’s X song ever, with it’s inescapable “Na na na na, yeah!” backing vocals. For the first time since Ear Candy in ’96, it seems King’s X just wanted to write and record some catchy songs. Of course this is done with all of their diverse influences and talents, but it does not mean the band stopped progressing in order to write some pop rock. “Free” is catchy indeed, and easily could have been on the radio, but it also has lyrical integrity. “The debt is rising, and you overload, because you’re broke, is this a joke? So go buy something, that you can’t afford, because you’re broke, is this a joke?” Musically, by turning the soul knob right up to 11, King’s X have progressed again.

Ty Tabor takes his turn on a mournful ballad called “I Just Want to Live”. A fine song, “I Just Want to Live” won’t be remembered as well as the previous tracks. Then the aptly titled “Move” has a pulse that you won’t believe. It’s Dug Pinnick’s bass that drives this thing, in a very 80’s kind of sparse arrangement. The awesome chorus seals the deal: it’s killer. Ty once again provides the soft side on “I Don’t Know”, another simply beautiful King’s X ballad, much like his Ear Candy material. His guitar solo here is a work of pure magic, and I swear to you that I did actually feel a chill go up my spine. Honest truth.

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Winding it down, Dug makes “Stuck” stick to your brain with some unusual melodies. It’s an unorthodox song and in that way it reminds us of early King’s X, though it sounds little like it. The return of the massive grooves on “Go Tell Somebody” turns this church singalong into a groove metal classic. “If you like what you hear, go tell somebody!” Yeah Dug, you said it! Word of mouth, baby. That’s kept King’s X alive through some difficult decades. They must have known, recording this song, that it was going to be awesome.

I’ve never seen a version of XV without bonus tracks, but my import digipack has ’em too. “Love and Rockets (Hell’s Screaming)” is an interesting song with a good riff. Dug sings the vocal with a calmness, as opposed to the wailing of “Go Tell Somebody”. Then “No Lie” is a jokey blues. “I’ve never sung this song before,” says Dug at the start. This one truly is a bonus track; although it has instrumental integrity, it doesn’t feel like a sincere part of the album. Another version of the album (probably Japanese) has a demo version of “Rocket Ship” as a bonus track. (Add to “Holy Grail” list)

XV is a solidly entertaining album with only a few moments that drag. For all the complaints about albums like Manic Moonlight or Black Like Sunday, XV sounds like redemption.

4.5/5 stars

Scan_20151201 (2)Jerry Gaskill suffered his first heart attack on February 25 2012. He required surgery but was feeling strong. King’s X had a tour booked to start only one month later, which had to be cancelled. Then in October of that year, his home was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. Fans rallied and donated money to help the Gaskill family rebuild. As if all of this was not enough to deal with, Gaskill had a second heart attack two years later. This required a double bypass. Once again, King’s X cancelled all gigs. They released special live albums to benefit the drummer, and only now in 2015 have they managed to get back on the road and start work on a new album.

We have waited a long time, but we will continue to wait as long as we need. King’s X will return!

This series is dedicated to Dug, Jerry and Ty.  Long may they reign.

Part 1 – Out of the Silent Planet (1988)
Part 2 – Gretchen Goes to Nebraska (1989)
Part 3 – Kings of the Absurd (split bootleg with Faith No More)
Part 4 – Faith Hope Love by King’s X (1990)
Part 5 – “Junior’s Gone Wild” (from 1991’s Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey soundtrack)
Part 6 – King’s X (1992)
Part 7 – Dogman (1994) + bonus “Pillow” promo single review
Part 8 – Ear Candy (1996)
Part 9 – Best of King’s X (1997)
Part 10 – Tape Head (1998)
Part 11 – POUNDHOUND – Massive Grooves from the Church of Psychofunkadelic Grungelism Rock Music (1998 Doug Pinnick/Jerry Gaskill)
Part 12 – Please Come Home…Mr. Bulbous (2000)
Part 13 – PLATYPUS – Ice Cycles (2000 Ty Tabor)
Part 14 – Manic Moonlight (2001)
Part 15 – Black Like Sunday (2003)
Part 16 – Ogre Tones (2005)
Part 17 – XV (2008)

REVIEW: King’s X – Ogre Tones (2005)

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Complete studio albums (and more!), part 16


Scan_20151123KING’S X – Ogre Tones (2005 Inside Out)

The previous few albums split fandom.  Many found it hard to grab onto the loose structures of Mr. Bulbous, and the drum loops of Manic Moonlight.  For this review, we are trying an experiment.  I have never  heard Ogre Tones before (in fact I’ve never heard any of these 14 tracks), so this will be a first-listen review.  Does King’s X have the same impact on first listen as they do on 21st?  Probably not, but let’s find out.  In a sense this is a “live” review, so please join me as I listen!

“Alone” could have alienated fans again, starting as it does with distorted alt-rock screaming.  This introduces a short pop-rock duet with Doug Pinnick and Ty Tabor, not a bad little song.  Even though it’s only three minutes, it still boasts multiple sections and lush harmonies, as well as the trademark King’s X groove that only they can play.  Ty dumbs-down the guitar solo for the 2000’s, as it mostly consists of one note.  It’s over quick and then it’s into the even shorter “Stay”, a Doug pop ballad with balls.  Some of those balls come from the heavy detuned guitar, some of it is purely in the ragged soul of Doug’s voice.

Pleasant sailing is “Hurricane”, not too challenging.  The trademark Beatles-meet-King’s X backing vocals lend it a psychedelic feel.  Thankfully, the kind of massive grooves you crave return on “Fly”, the first King’s X Klassic on Ogre Tones.  Biting bass licks nicely accent a catchy rock tune, old-school style meets new-school production.  “If” is another good song, kind of similar to the pop rock delicacy Ear Candy.  Onto the jazz-metal of “Bebop”, Doug throws a very different song into the mix but the album is the better for it.  Just before the halfway point of the album, “Bebop” becomes a highlight.

I like Ty’s acoustic numbers, and “Honesty” is a bare, emotion-filled Tabor classic.  Sounding a lot like Faith Hope Love-era King’s X, “Honesty” is hit-worthy.  You need some heavy riffing after that, and “Open My Eyes” has a big, phat Sabbathy riff behind it.  The song is a bit disjointed though, at least on first listen.  Just a riff without a song.  “Freedom” goes in one ear and out the other (albeit with a great guitar outro).  Unfortunately like many albums with so many tracks on them, Ogre Tones starts to sag in the middle.  “Get Away” is another one.  The lyrics don’t hit the spot anymore:  “Hey God, I watched the news tonight, why are your people so fuckin’ mean?”

The only long song on Ogre Tones is “Sooner or Later”, at 7:00.  It’s a decent slow dirge that I suspect will require a few more listens to appreciate, and even if it doesn’t, there’s plenty of Ty Tabor noodling to go around.  Then there is another decent ballad in the oddly-titled “Mudd”.  I was hoping this was a song about the classic Star Trek character, Harcourt Fenton Mudd.  Sadly, it is not.  The strangest song of all might be a remake of “Goldilox” (from Gretchen Goes to Nebraska).  True to the original, but of course not as timeless and perfect, it is nonetheless a welcome inclusion.  After all, can you really fault King’s X for putting one of their best songs out for a second time?  Considering they tried, and tried, and tried to catch a break, why give up?  Of course I don’t need to tell you that “Goldilox (Reprise)” was not a hit in 2005, but maybe they should try again in 2020!  The album then closes with “Bam” which is exactly what it sounds like.  Bam!  A crash of instruments…followed by almost three minutes of feedback, noise, and the bizarre.

There is a video included on the first run of the CD, which you can still buy.  “Alone” has girls shaking their hair for no reason.  This video is now on Youtube, of course.

Ogre Tones strikes me as a good album, one that should deliver more on further listens.  However I wonder if the sluggish middle section will be a difficult obstacle.

3.25/5 stars

Part 1 – Out of the Silent Planet (1988)
Part 2 – Gretchen Goes to Nebraska (1989)
Part 3 – Kings of the Absurd (split bootleg with Faith No More)
Part 4 – Faith Hope Love by King’s X (1990)
Part 5 – “Junior’s Gone Wild” (from 1991’s Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey soundtrack)
Part 6 – King’s X (1992)
Part 7 – Dogman (1994) + bonus “Pillow” promo single review
Part 8 – Ear Candy (1996)
Part 9 – Best of King’s X (1997)
Part 10 – Tape Head (1998)
Part 11 – POUNDHOUND – Massive Grooves from the Church of Psychofunkadelic Grungelism Rock Music (1998 Doug Pinnick/Jerry Gaskill)
Part 12 – Please Come Home…Mr. Bulbous (2000)
Part 13 – PLATYPUS – Ice Cycles (2000 Ty Tabor)
Part 14 – Manic Moonlight (2001)
Part 15 – Black Like Sunday (2003)

REVIEW: Platypus – Ice Cycles (2000)

quiz

Complete studio albums (and more!), part 13


Second review from Mike and Aaron Go to Toronto…Again!  I paid $2.99 for this CD at Sonic Boom.  A steal.

PLATYPUS_0001PLATYPUS – Ice Cycles (2000 InsideOut)

Platypus are:  Ty Tabor – Guitars & vocals (King’s X).  John Myung – Bass (Dream Theater).  Derek Sherinian – Keys (Dream Theater, Alice Cooper, Kiss).  Rod Morgenstein – Drums (Dixie Dregs, Winger).

From the information above, you already know several things: 1. Platypus is a supergroup. 2. This is going to have plenty of incendiary playing on it. 3. It’s gonna be progressive. Much like their first album (this is their second), it’s also gonna be fun!

If you’re a fan of any of these guys, you will love to hear them in this band’s context. There are plenty of King’s X-isms, but the personalities of the players have their own influences. Nobody plays drums like Rod Morgenstein, and I always enjoy the chance to hear him work.

The opening track, “Oh God” is quite heavy, with quieter keyboard moments. The track has some serious weight to it. Ty of course is a melodic singer, so that balances it. It’s just one of several standout tracks.  “Better Left Unsaid” has a pleasant aura, similar to Faith Hope Love-era King’s X, but with Sherinian’s keyboards lending a completely different sound. Myung doesn’t play bass like Dug Pinnick does, but he does create a thick sound. Morgenstein’s drums have marching band precision.

PLATYPUS_0002The heavy melody-driven “The Tower” really gets the engine running during the chorus. The verses lack a bit, but that chorus section is furious, as is the guitar solo. The piano tinkle of “Cry” has a moment that is playfully lifted from Alice Cooper’s “I Love the Dead”, but the chorus is like Alice In Chains! This is a complex track, not instantly likable. Give it some time to sink in. Morgenstein, once again, leaves jaws on the floor.

My favourite tracks are two: the brief “I Need You”, which has the lush Tabor vocals that we know and love.  This track is probably the most like King’s X, coincidentally.  Then there’s the smoking hot “25” with its Dream Theater keys and Zeppelin guitars.  There’s also a Rush riff in there somewhere.  This is one of only two instrumentals on the album, but it sure is a corker!  Just stunning.

The final track can only be called an epic.  “Partial to the Bean (A Tragic American Quintology)” is a instrumental that goes all over the board, in seven parts.  If you’ve heard instrumental epics by these players before then I’m sure you know what you’re up against.  A challenging but rewarding listen.

That can be said for the album in general.  It’s a rewarding listen that will, at times, challenge you.  I like that.

3.5/5 stars

Part 1 – Out of the Silent Planet (1988)
Part 2 – Gretchen Goes to Nebraska (1989)
Part 3 – Kings of the Absurd (split bootleg with Faith No More)
Part 4 – Faith Hope Love by King’s X (1990)
Part 5 – “Junior’s Gone Wild” (from 1991’s Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey soundtrack)
Part 6 – King’s X (1992)
Part 7 – Dogman (1994) + bonus “Pillow” promo single review
Part 8 – Ear Candy (1996)
Part 9 – Best of King’s X (1997)
Part 10 – Tape Head (1998)
Part 11 – POUNDHOUND – Massive Grooves from the Electric Church of Psychofunkadelic Grungelism Rock Music (1998 Doug Pinnick/Jerry Gaskill)
Part 12 – Please Come Home…Mr. Bulbous (2000)