King’s X – In The New Age – The Atlantic Recordings 1988 – 1995

King’s X – In The New Age – The Atlantic Recordings 1988 – 1995

9th May 2023 0 By George Simpson

Welcome to Bands who never became as big as they should have done: Part 4526. This week’s guests are King’s X. Listening to this collection of their first half dozen albums today makes you wonder how they’re even on that list at all. But like the vast majority of the 4525 bands before them, they have a musical legacy that can’t be taken away. Who knows, this box set may finally redress that balance, and show the uninitiated what they’ve been missing. 

This set marks the thirty-fifth anniversary of their debut album. I’m not sure whether that ages them more or me! What is impressive about this trio is that they have had the same lineup for that entire time. Bassist and vocalist Dug Pinnock, guitarist Ty Tabor and Jerry Gaskill are still together today and maintained a solid consistency throughout their career.

Thinking back to when they burst onto the scene in 1988, there was always something a bit different about King’s X. Back then, the rock and metal world was dominated by the likes of Def Leppard and Bon Jovi on one end of the pitch, with the likes of Iron Maiden, Metallica, et al in heavier opposition at the other. King’s X and their Beatles meet Rush sound being a midfield general not knowing which goal to shoot for. Their glorious mix of heavy riffing and melody made them stand apart from the majority of other bands firmly aligned with one genre or another. 

Their first three albums released between 1988 and 1990 are their strongest here in some way. Each is a natural progression from the previous one. It’s hard to pick one as being the best of the three. Each has a carefree, this is us, take it or leave it attitude about them. Indeed, listening back to them you could argue that they were a band ahead of their time. They were playing down-tuned, heavy 70s-influenced rock a few years before the grunge explosion. The irony is that it was that movement that ultimately derailed them

. So what about the albums I hear the uninitiated say? The debut, 1988’s Out Of The Silent Planet starts things off on a serious high. The range of influences here is astounding, rock, pop, funk, prog, gospel, you name it. However, don’t let that make you think that it’s a busy mish-mash album. They harness these elements but deliver them with stunning simplicity. They are only a three-piece after all. The prog element comes from the CS Lewis-inspired lyrics, and is there musically on tracks like Far, Far Away where their Rush influence really shows up. It also boasts a stone-cold classic in the shape of Goldilox. A melodic masterclass, that sounds as good today, as it did way back when. 

In the following years, Gretchen Goes To Nebraska continued in a similar vein. The sound and production values have improved, resulting in a smoother sound. Again, this was a concept affair, dealing with more spiritual subject matter this time. In addition, it also included what to my ears their finest hour. How Over My Head wasn’t a huge hit I will never know. An instantly memorable riff, matched with an infectious chorus, should’ve resulted in massive success..but didn’t.

That all-important breakthrough arrived in 1990 when the more laid-back Faith Hope Love finally cracked the Billboard Hot 100. I always thought of this as their ‘Beatles‘ album. The simple melodies are the focal point with the dark riffing taking a back seat. It also highlights their vocal talents to stunning effect. The result is what I think of as the last of their holy trinity of albums. Tracks like Six Broken Soldiers and It’s Love, once again, deserve far greater recognition than they got. 

After the musical atomic bomb that was grunge changed the landscape in 1992, there was a notable shift to down-tuned darker sound by a lot of bands, with King’s X being no different. Whilst their self-titled album from that year is a decent album, the innocence, joy and carefree attitude of the early albums was missing. The need to toughen up to stay relevant is obvious here from the opening of The World Around Me. Also evident is a broadening of the sound. For example, the mix of electric and acoustic guitar on Prisoner adds a dynamic element to their previously uncluttered sound. 

The drift further away from their original sound continued on 1994’s Dogman. Long-time producer Sam Taylor was swapped for the era’s most wanted man, Brendan O’Brien. His work with the likes of Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots was up there with the best. However, to my ears he made King’s X sound like those types of bands, rather than themselves. The old band was still there though, with tracks like the wonderful laidback Flies and Blue Skys harking back to the early sparse sound of their early days. It’s still a decent album by any standard though. 

Perhaps realizing that they were in the last chance saloon with their major label Atlantic Records, Ear Candy saw them throw caution to the wind and become themselves again. The raw elements of their first three albums returned, as did their more sparse uncluttered sound. There are some great songs on this album. The likes of the Goldilox-esque A Box and delightful Mississippi Moon are among the highlights for me. Though it has to be said that the album does suffer from a slightly muddy sound. 

However, this set is not without its shortcomings. If, like me, you already have these albums, you’d expect there to be plenty of bonus tracks here to make it worthwhile. Unfortunately, there are really only a few scraps to be had here. What we get is merely single B sides and pointless radio edits. This really is a missed opportunity to celebrate this era properly. Surely there must’ve been unreleased material, or live shows from the time available. 

That quibble aside, this collection really is a celebration of a great band, in their pomp, delivering a series of albums that many bands would kill for. Indeed, many of those bands have ironically achieved far greater success than them. Which all goes to show what a cruel world we live in. But, that King’s X is still with us all these years later is ultimately another cause for celebration. 

Score: 8.5/10 


One – Out Of The Silent Planet (1988)

Two – Gretchen Goes To Nebraska (1989)

Three – Faith Hope Love (1990) 

Four – King’s X (1992)

Five – Dogman (1994)

Six – Ear Candy (1995)

Label: Dissonance

Release Date: 28th Apri

For all things King’s X, click HERE and to purchase this boxset, click HERE

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