Monday, January 26, 2009

Best of 2008: 7. King's X, "XV"

A Second opinion: After quite a few less than stellar outings, King's X finally got back to the groove-based rock 'n' roll that they do so well. This is easily the band's best effort since "Dogman."

Original review: I'm much later than promised on this one, but it's still well worth noting.

Anyone whose read my reviews knows that I love bands that break the mold and do something a little different. King's X was one of the first of those I discovered. I was watching Headbanger's Ball (the original) back in the late '80s when the video for "Over My Head" came on. Here was this lanky, mohawk-sporting black guy (a rarity in itself in those days of metal) with an incredible voice, wailing over music that drew as much influence from gospel and soul as it did from Black Sabbath.

It's been almost 20 years since that discovery, and I've had my ups and downs with the band from the outstanding first five records to the hit and miss experimentation of the late 90s and this decade. The band's latest, "XV," though, stands as perhaps its best since 1994's "Dogman." Those tight Beatles-like harmonies that the band has always been known for, here become more like the harmonies of an energetic gospel choir, and that change is announced early on the chorus of record opener "Pray." It also signals that, perhaps, there's a little more anger here than in the past, a point proven later in the record on the charging "Move" and the dark "Love and Rockets (Hell's Screaming)."

That's not to say it's all anger. The record is varied with songs like the bubble-gum "Rocket Ship," the joyful "Go Tell Somebody" and the sardonic "Broke." Drummer Jerry Gaskill also takes a turn on the mic for the first time in a number of years for "Julie." It's a strong comeback for King's X, without a bad song to be found. The song here requests "If you like what you hear, then go tell somebody." Consider somebody told.

Get "XV."

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