Call it the ENUFF Z'NUFF syndrome. A few unfortunate haircuts at the beginning of a band's existence, a well-meant but mismatched tour or two, and a band spends its life consigned to a genre where it fits and functions about as well as COURTNEY LOVE's chastity belt. Many metalheads think they're weak, while a nation of more open-minded music fans have no idea they exist, languishing in the same record bins as DEICIDE.
Would KING'S X have fared better careerwise if they'd been seen from the beginning as, say, a power pop band who happened to turn up the guitars sometimes? It's academic at this point, but it's also a damn shame that this band never broke through to a larger audience. Now recording and playing mostly to the already-converted, the band switch to the InsideOut label in time to release "Ogre Tones", one of the strongest batches of songs in their twenty-year history.
KING'S X always makes me think of summer. Just listen to songs like "Stay" and "If" — wide-open harmonies and the kind of melodies made for top-down driving and California sunshine. There's darkness in their music as well, though — sometimes their most simple and universal lyrics are coupled with sinister minor chords, like a thunderstorm on the horizon. And songs like "Sooner or Later" and "Open My Eyes" can be downright grim in outlook — friendships end, those who express themselves are crushed down, desperate people turn to violence. Doug Pinnick even point-blank asks God, in one song, "why are your people so fuckin' mean?"
Musically, "Ogre Tones" finds KING'S X wandering all over the map, from the quirky, heavy funk of "Bebop" to airier songs, like "Freedom", that recall the band's first few albums. "Honesty" and "Get Away" are plaintive acoustic pieces, while "Sooner or Later" is a morose, but ultimately hopeful dirge that descends into some bittersweet jamming from guitarist Ty Tabor that leads to an exuberant finish, the sort of push and pull that can only come from a band that's spent the better part of twenty-plus years living in each other's back pockets. It's an organic, honest vibe, and it's why no one out there sounds anything like them.
KING'S X is another of those bands where, if you haven't been keeping up since the beginning, their discography can be a little daunting. Here's a tip: go pick this up the day it comes out, and while you're at it, buy a used copy of 1990's "Faith Hope Love" (if all you can find is the self-titled album from 1992, that'll work just as well). Once you initiate yourself into their slippery, groove-laden, soulful hard rock, going out to pick up the rest of their catalog will be a no-brainer. KING'S X is the kind of band that makes you feel glad to be alive, and "Ogre Tones" is arguably their best album in ten years. Don't let a silly thing like genre deprive you of enjoying it.