Reviews: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
King's X - Out Of The Silent Planet
   
Musical Style: Metal/Hard Rock Produced By: Sam Taylor & King's X
Record Label: Mega Force Country Of Origin: USA
Year Released: 1988/2014 Artist Website: King's X
Tracks: 10 Rating: 90%
Running Time: 42:37

King’s X made its mark by being different.  Consider how the groups 1988 Mega Force Records full-length debut Out Of The Silent Planet came out at the height of the ‘hair metal’ era, and gaudy attire, pop influenced catchy hooks and the wave the lighter in the air power ballad helped pave the way for commercial success.  King’s X, on the other hand, took the more artistic approach by fusing intricate songwriting and a wide array of musical styles with an image on the streetwise side of things.  Yes, the group contrasted with much of the cookie-cutter-formula-radio-friendly proclivities of the time but in the process brought a uniqueness that delighted critics and garnered a long term and loyal fan base.

It begins with vocals in that instead of a high-end crooner reaching for the stratosphere or a strutting around David Lee Roth type, King’s X includes two equally good and complementary vocalists.  Bassist Doug Pinnick, on one hand, brings a soulful style heavily rooted in heart and emotion and has invited comparison to the late Phil Lynott (Thin Lizzy) as a result.  Guitarist Ty Tabor, on the other, highlights a smooth and even middle-register presence.  Pinnick handles majority of lead vocal duties, while Tabor plays a co-lead vocalist role, with the two occasionally trading off within the same song in this capacity.

It is musical direction where King’s X brings that uniqueness in question.  The group offers an amalgamation of just about all forms of hard music, including heavy metal, straightforward hard rock, progressive rock, funk, blues and even occasional doom tendencies.  Such an all over the map style propensity, obviously, helps make it problematic to pigeonhole the group in terms of any one specific segment or genre.  Hence, we find a label of “technical metal with an emotional edge” proves sufficient.

Other critics, at the same time, encounter the same challenge when it comes to classifying King’s X.  One described the group as “driving, melodic rock, bolstered by intricate layering (and) rumbling 12-string bass textures (that will) appeal to metal, alternative, progressive and mainstream fans alike”, while another suggested a “(merging of) Black Sabbath styled riffs, Beatlesque harmonies and the soul of Sly and the Family Stone”.  A reviewer back in the day even went to far as to state that “King’s X sounds like what Rush might have sounded like, had they remained a metal band and fired Alex Lifeson in favor of Stevie Ray Vaughan”.

The fact is all of the above apply to varying degrees in painting an accurate picture of the at times eclectic but always creative King’s X sound.  My overall feeling is that Out Of The Silent Planet represents the heaviest and most consistently guitar driven of the early King’s X releases.  It would not be inaccurate, for instance, to label the album metal and hard rock - keeping in mind the musical divergences the group brings to the table - in setting the foundation for the multi-dimensional and experimental leanings the group would further explore on follow up releases Gretchen Goes To Nebraska (1989) and Faith Hope Love (1990). 

Out Of The Silent Planet, accordingly, runs the gamut from the ploddingly powerful and at times doom-ish tinctures to “In The New Age” and “Visions” to the high energy and hook based mentality of “King” and “Shot Of Love”.  Close listen to guitarist Ty Tabor’s delectable soloing on the four reveals why he ranks with my all time favorite guitarists.  In between, the band delivers a pair of slower tracks in which it makes use of big, soulful vocal harmonies, moving and ethereal based ballad “Goldilox” and laid back and easy going “Far, Far Away”.  Maintaining the moody disposition are “Wonder”, interweaving churning guitars with sitar, and “What Is This?”, darker and bass guitar driven in upholding the same heavier underpinnings.  Time changes presents themselves on “Sometimes” and “Power Of Love”, both starting at a measured and bottom heavy pace only to break out for explosive choruses that successfully reach for a more accessible sound.

I always ranked Out Of The Silent Planet a notch below Gretchen Goes To Nebraska and Faith Hope Love due to some slight rawness to production.  That, however, all changed in the winter of 2014 with the Rock Candy re-issue of the album, digitally re-mastered and including a 16 page full color booklet with 3500 word essay and interview with Doug (now known as dUg) Pinnick.  Re-mastering cleans things up significantly, with the end result the crisper, cleaner and brighter sound that allows Out Of The Silent Planet to equally stand alongside its two successors.

The essay and Pinnick interview go into detail about the bands background, which traces itself to the late seventies.  It started in 1979 when vocalist Greg X. Volz contacted Pinnick and drummer Jerry Gaskill about joining Petra.  When that fell through with the (at the time) break up of Petra, the two hired on for a year as Phil Keaggy’s touring rhythm section in support of the 1980 Ph’lip Side album (a show this reviewer had the pleasure of attending).  It was during this period that Pinnick and Gaskill first met Tabor, who was playing drums for a band opening a show for Keaggy in Springfield, Missouri.

The first incarnation of King’s X went under the moniker The Edge, but upon discovering there was another band with the same name, the group settled on Sneak Preview.  The main claim to fame of Sneak Preview was having recorded a self-titled debut album in 1983, which has never been officially released (there are some bootleg copies floating around).  A mid-eighties move to Houston brought the three musicians in contact with future producer Sam Taylor, who recommended the name change to King’s X.  A demo the group recorded later made its way into the hands of John Zazula of Mega Force Records, and the rest, as they say, is history (a showcase performance at the Cat Club in New York City in June 1987 led Mega Force to sign King’s X on the spot).

A few other historical tidbits about King’s X to note:

* Pinnick has songwriting credits with both Servant (“I’m Gonna Live” from Rockin Revival) and Phil Keaggy (“Just A Moment Away” from Ph’lip Side).

* Sneak Preview turned down a contract offer from Star Song Records.

* Tabor helped co-write the 1985 Morgan Cryar album Fuel On The Fire.  Tabor also produced the final Resurrection Band album Lament from 1995.

* Pinnick played in a Joilet, Illinois based band called Servant for five years with keyboardist Matt Spransy, who went on to join the other (and better-known) Servant from Oregon.

* The title Out Of The Silent Planet was inspired by a 1938 science fiction novel of the same name by C.S. Lewis.

One cannot question how King’s X communicates immense truth lyrically in a thoughtful manner (see the track by track for further details).  You will find the Out Of The Silent Planet lyrics, for instance, to be revealing while depicting honesty, compassion and true spirituality (not to mention faith, hope and love).  Accordingly, King’s X is a band it is difficult to describe, whether musically or lyrically, in one paragraph let alone a single sentence.  The groups press material (from the time) sums things up best: “a cornucopia of influences spanning the past three decades to produce a boldly original sonic landscape”.  My thought is that King’s X is a band you have to either listen to completely or totally ignore- in other words, you cannot put the band on halfway in that they demand your full attention.

Track By Track

“In The New Age” opens its first minute and a half to atmospheric keyboards.  The song lumbers and plods its remaining distance, with hulking guitars overseeing the distantly flowing verses and downtrodden chorus that approaches the doom-like.  Tabor’s dramatic lead work adds to the biting environs.  Lyric snippet:

Disguise your lying words with love
Depending on the good of man
The truth, the symbol of a dove,
will unmask the maker of your plans

In the new age
I see the blind lead the blind
In the new age
In the search for the mind
In the new age
But I know what they'll find

A semi-ballad heading presents itself on “Goldilox”.  The song exquisitely melds gentler guitar tones with those of a stauncher variety (for the drifting verses) while emphasizing ethereal (do I dare say Beatlesque?) backing vocals for the eloquently done chorus.  In the end, this one represents an equal joining of the stauncher and lighter.  Lyric snippet:

I can't believe summer's almost here
I made it through another year, even if alone
But there's no tears in my eyes
Life is still full of surprise
I'm not looking for a one-night stand

I look at you and I know who you are
You're just a little bit too far from my home
But please don't get me wrong, even though it has been long
I hope I never sing my last song without someone

“Power Of Love” moves towards an up-beat heading.  The song careens between its bass guitar driven verses (with the stout low-end to match) and commanding chorus (in which metal edged guitars careen to the front of the mix).  One of the albums heaviest but not without its share of emotion either.  Lyric snippet:

Trapped inside these walls surround me
Closing in it's hard to breathe
It's okay, I hear the shouting
What is left the will to be

On my hand I have no scars
But in my heart's a weary beat
If you go, I will follow
Where you are, I will be

“Wonder” maintains the upbeat heading.  This one mixes Middle Eastern influences, as can be found in sitar, with an all out metal-based proclivity.  A darker and more reverberant aspect comes to the forefront in the process.  Such willingness to experiment plays itself out further on follow up releases Gretchen Goes To Nebraska and Faith, Hope & Love.  Lyric snippet:

This is church
This is state
Rock-n-roll
Amazing grace
It makes me think
It makes me deal
With the situation
How do I feel?

There's a wall between us
A partition of sorts
And it makes me wonder
There’s a sign ahead
Says it's gonna be okay
And it makes me wonder

“Sometime” lends its variances as well.  On one hand, the song trends towards a moody feel in which a profound bass guitar holds sway.  On the other, at a moments notice initiative can surge as a heavy-duty guitar edge takes over.  Melody does not forsake itself in the process.  Lyric snippet:

I stand here crying
The world is laughing
I stand surrounded yet I see the lies
I stand here waiting for New Jerusalem
I know it's greater than the world outside

Sometimes I shout
Sometimes I hide
It all begins
It's all in time

“King”, albums shortest at just over three minutes, ups the energy level a hundred fold.  Backing vocals play a profound role in the process, shouted for the full on momentum driven verses and taking an ethereal tone for the tempered (even if just slightly) melodic based chorus.  Non-stop proves the deciding factor.  Lyric snippet:

You are the one who causes me pain
You are the one who causes me grief
You are the one who lied to me
It won't be long, soon you will see

King is coming…

You are the one who magnifies hate
You are the one who destroyed our love
You are the one disguised as a saint
It won't be long, your kingdom will quake

King is coming…

Back to slower and moodier territory on “What Is This?”  A darker riff emphasis prevails throughout, with an understated heaviness reflected in the trenchant verses and more focuses demeanor to the uplifting chorus.  A bluesy essence makes its presence felt as a result.  Lyric snippet:

Oh lord, it gets so complicated
Oh lord, I don't know what to do
God! It looks so hopeless
But I know it isn't true

What is this that gives me hope in the middle of the night
and makes me run to You?
What is this that lights my way through the hours of the day?
Tell me what to do

“Far, Far Away” starts to a drum solo prior to drifting its length in laid back and easygoing fashion, mid-paced with flowing backing vocals while giving rise to overriding heart and soul in the process.  Also of note is how sitar makes a cameo (but tastefully done) appearance.  Pinnick extends and stretches vocally here.  Lyric snippet:

Familiar faces
Annually haunt me
The cold brings seasons of the heart
Always reminded
Can’t block it out
No one could see it from the start

Inside it's lonely
I drive my car
Pass by the signs that speak our past
Always reminding
Can’t block it out
The story we all knew would last

“Shot Of Love” proves up-tempo all the way and could be classified as a companion track to “King” accordingly.  Hence, the infectious front to back momentum and hints of commercial (the hook will pull you in and refuse to let go) throughout.  Brazen lead guitar work aligns with the charged mentality at hand.  Lyric snippet:

Sometimes my cup is empty
My wish that it stay full
'Cause I am always thirsty
I can't get enough of You

There is nowhere else to go
There is nothing else to do
There is nowhere else to turn
The first and last is You
Oh, I hear the music
Oh, I need a brand new song

“Visions”, in contrast, closes things in slow, heavy and almost doom-ish style.  The song notches up the heaviness, with guitars straining towards the front of the mix and pace that trends towards the trudging.  Interestingly, a more melodic tone manifests itself in the calmer and gentler flavorings to the smoothly done chorus.  An extended instrumental run again finds Tabor cutting loose in excited fashion.  Lyric snippet:

The lunatic says goodbye to those who say they love him
He’s wise within himself as this craziness surrounds him
From his lips come truth within insanity
And people passing by don't hear and cannot see

Cursing the darkness
Visions inside his head look like mine
Oh, just like mine
His words so true, oh, they're used against him
Oh, his children smile because they know he loves them

Review by Andrew Rockwell

Track Listing: "In The New Age" (5:23), "Goldilox" (4:41), "Power Of Love" (4:57), "Wonder" (4:13), "Sometimes" (3:40), "King" (3:01), "What Is This?" (3:48), "Far, Far Away" (4:14), "Shot Of Love" (3:15), "Visions" (5:11)

Musicians
Doug Pinnick - Lead Vocals & Bass
Ty Tabor - Guitars
Jerry Gaskill - Drums

Reference List
Peterson, Doug. "The Gospel According To Gretchen." White Throne 7 (1991): 46-51.
Van Pelt, Doug. "King's X Is Coming." Heaven's Metal 17 (1988): 26-29.

 

Reviews: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
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