At this point in the career of King’X, one can’t help but be reminded of Rush. Fans tend to divide both bands history into several ‘eras’. King’s X found a strong fan base during their ‘Sam Taylor’ era, which arguably lasted through Dogman (though Taylor didn’t produce that album). Ear Candy, Tapehead, & Mr. Bulbous found the band searching for a new direction, surviving divorce, loss of faith, and surviving the challenges of promoting themselves through a smaller label. Most fans consider Manic Moonlight a low point for the band, so scattered and directionless that some of us feared for their future. The retro ‘Black Like Sunday’ didn’t lend much hope, as the band reached back to pre-Taylor songs instead of looking forward. It seemed the train had run out of steam and the well of ideas had run dry.
Enter Tom Wagner who produced Ogre Tones, an album filled with fresh sounds that also hearkened back to the bands earlier prog days with Sam Taylor. I believe that King’s X has been on a journey to find their place in the world musically and spiritually, and XV just may be the culmination of that trip. Like Rush, they have changed, confused fans, and all but disappeared from the public eye, but they have stubbornly refused to keep churning out the same old album year after year.
XV picks up where Orge Tones left off, but builds on it’s strengths. Lush three part harmonies have been largely scaled back in favor of shouted gang vocals, and small touches of the Beatlesque vocals that marked their earlier works. The spacey, proggy sound of Grethen and FHL are gone, never to return it seems, but in it’s place we have a lean, tight, solid wall of sound that focuses on melody, with memorable song structure, and only hints of the complexities the band is capable of.
Hey, it’s King’s X. They don’t have to prove themselves to ANYONE.
The new listener gets a clean, accessible version of the legendary band, while long-time fans get a mature, focused effort that’s probably their strongest since Dogman. The trio is obviously revitalized and have moved beyond their roots, their tragedies, and their musical meandering. It’s as if they’re unapologetically saying, “This is the new King’s X. Love it or leave it.” Oh yeah – and it’s happy (for the most part). Remember when King’s X was happy? The fun is back.
I give it four stars because Ty’s guitar solos are few, and many fans listen to the band precisely because the man is a god on the guitar – we need more!
Otherwise, the next logical chapter in the King’s X story. It’s great to watch a band grow up and figure out who they are. I’m gonna Go Tell Somebody.