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King's X

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Honorary Colaborator
3 stars If I could sum up the majority of King's X's output in one word, I would call it "reliable". Their signature blend of hard rock, progressive rock/metal, and alternative metal really hasn't changed much over the years, despite a few experimental releases here and there (Please Come Home? Mr. Bulbous immediately comes to mind). But in all fairness, their sound never really needed to change in the first place; despite only bubbling up beneath mainstream success, you'll find no shortage of musicians who have praised them over the years. From Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament proclaiming that they invented grunge to Devin Townsend including Gretchen Goes to Nebraska in his list of the "Five Albums That Made Me", King's X have garnered a reputation as "your favorite band's favorite band" for a reason. With that said, the last decade hasn't exactly been kind to our rock trio: in the time since 2008's XV, drummer Jerry Gaskill and frontman Doug Pinnick had suffered their share of health issues, including two heart attacks in the former's case and a lymph node infection in the latter. Combine that with the members' respective solo projects, and it was understandable that production on Three Sides of One would be a slow and difficult process. But now that it's finally out, how exactly does it stack up against their previous works?

Right from the get-go, opener "Let It Rain" makes it apparent that these guys haven't lost a step since their absence. It's a warm, inviting midtempo rocker with all the spiritual imagery and charismatic vocals that you would typically expect of a King's X song. You have to give it to Pinnick as well: the dude is in his 70s now, and yet his vocals sound like they did in the band's early days. His singing manages to range from low vibrato sections to high impassioned wails, as if he's still exalting the music he heard in "Over My Head" all those years ago. Meanwhile, Ty Tabor is cooking up all sorts of diverse guitar tones and techniques throughout the record; you've got the absolutely nasty sludge-influenced intro to "Flood Pt. 1", the bluesy crunch found in the riffs of high- octane rocker "Give It Up", the gorgeous clean tones of power ballad "All God's Children", and much more. While Pinnick and Gaskill provide an excellent rhythm section as always, it's Tabor who brings much of the stylistic diversity on Three Sides of One.

What's especially welcome about the record is the presence of the gospel and soul elements that defined the trio's best works. "Take the Time", for instance, is rife with lush vocal harmonies and an overall life-affirming atmosphere; the whole song just exudes feel-good vibes. The aforementioned "All God's Children" is another good case of this, as even its heavier sections retain the reverent spirit of its subdued acoustic moments; of course, having lovely vocal interplay between Tabor and Pinnick helps too. But if there are any genuine surprises found in Three Sides of One's tracklist, they're in the metal side of things; seriously, this record gets startlingly heavy at times. "Flood Pt. 1" and "Swipe Up" are both marked by sludgy downtuned riffs that channel the likes of Alice in Chains or Melvins, although the former does ease up in its verses. Elsewhere on the album, we get the proggy off-kilter riff that introduces "Holidays" and the down-and-dirty southern grooves of "Watcher", displaying a band who aren't afraid to express their heavier side in new ways 43 years into their career. However, it would have been nice to have just a few more of such experiments on the record. Much of Three Sides of One is just business as usual for King's X, the tracklist largely being occupied by midtempo melodic rockers in the group's traditional style without a ton of surprises; a little dose of unpredictability could have strengthened the experience as a whole.

Still, having a new record by these guys is like hugging an old friend you haven't seen in years; even after such a long absence, there's still a warm familiarity you get as a King's X fan when putting the album on for the first time. The classic Beatles-esque melodies? The soulful vibes? The rock-solid musicianship? The heavy semi- proggy riffs? They're all here, and all get their due spotlight over the course of the album. Three Sides of One doesn't reinvent the wheel in any major way, but it serves as a nice continuation of the band's career after such a long gap between releases; moreover, it's just incredibly satisfying to see them finally putting out new material again.

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Posted Wednesday, September 7, 2022 | Review Permalink

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