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.
Knowing King’s X has some of the most rabid fans, they should be all over this album.