Despite the love that seminal albums ‘Gretchen Goes to Nebraska’ and ‘Faith, Hope, Love’ received on “Headbanger’s Ball” back in the day, King’s X has never been heavy metal in the traditional sense. A power trio in the tradition of Cream or The Jimi Hendrix Experience that incorporates souped-up aspects of both of those bands and wears its Beatles and Sly Stone influences proudly on its sleeves, King’s X are “heavy,” but to call them “metal” misses the point. ‘Three Sides of One,’ a record 12 years in the making may not be as immediate as those early seminal albums or other assorted bangers strewn throughout their 14 studio-record deep discography, but it is a record steeped largely in the vein of their classic rock influences that rewards repeat listens.
The opener “Let it Rain” is a dUg Pinnick-led highlight. The ominous guitar chords of the song’s intro build into a lean, classic King’s X send-up highlighted by the groovy bass and soulful vocals of the ageless Pinnick, who somehow turns 72 the day after this record’s 9/2 release. Despite recent health problems, drummer Jerry Gaskill hasn’t missed a beat with rock-solid performance, and Ty Tabor works his usual magic with a backward guitar solo that adds just the right amount of psychedelia.
The Fab Four stylings of “The Watcher,” in which Tabor’s exemplary guitar solo redefines the tones that can be produced by a solid-state amplifier, is the first of several like-minded pop tunes. “She Called Me Home” is a subtle minor-key number thick with vocal harmonies and warm power chords that get ripped wide open by a coda that feels heavier than the sum of its parts, and the breezy instrumentation and bittersweet singalong chorus of “Ever Everywhere” is deliciously catchy unabashed 60s worship.
Elsewhere, orchestral noodling precedes the heavy staccato intro riff of the mercurial “Flood Pt. 1.,” a song that brief 2-minute runtime balances ominous vocal melodies/harmonies with off-the-rails riffery. The elephantine-paced, 6/8, proto-metal of “All God’s Children” effectively explores the space between lumbering chords. “Give it Up” is a heavy funk-rock workout, and “Festival” splits the difference between power-pop and proto-punk.
“Swipe Up” with its elastic riffs is easily the most “metal” thing here, and fans of the band’s progressive side will find plenty to like in its twisting groove. King’s X with their infectious swagger and stellar group vocals have a knack for making unlikely ear candy out of the most unconventional of tunes, and “Swipe Up” epitomizes this.
“Nothing but the Truth” another soulful Pinnick-led tune features expert vocal harmonies and shimmering minor-key arpeggiated guitar. Building towards an emotive lead break that shows off Tabor’s gift for tasteful phrasing and fluid playing, it is another clear standout.
Also worth noting, the record’s retro-minded, bottom-heavy production is well suited for this collection of ageless tunes and does a great job of capturing the time-tested, effortless chemistry of the group.
After a 17-year lay-off, King’s X are back! Many years in the making, ‘Three Sides of One’ is a record that mostly sidesteps the band’s heavier tendencies in favor of subtle melodic rock classicism.