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Music / King's X

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From left to right: Ty Tabor, Doug Pinnick, Jerry Gaskill.

King's X are a Rock Trio consisting of bassist/singer Doug "dUg" Pinnick, guitarist/singer Ty Tabor, and drummer/singer Jerry Gaskill that was founded in 1980 (as The Edge, later Sneak Preview). After a few changes in lineup, band name, and musical style during their early years, as well as now being managed by former ZZ Top video producer Sam Taylor, King's X adopted their trademark sound around 1987 which combined elements of Progressive Metal, dropped D tuning, Beatles-like vocal harmonies and melodies as well as influences from funk, early Heavy Metal and folk. Their lyrics mostly dealt with issues of (Christian) faith, spirituality, love, and philosophy. Their early albums "Out of the Silent Planet" (1988), "Gretchen Goes to Nebraska" (1989), "Faith Hope Love" (1990), and "King's X" were initially well-received by the press and created a bit of a buzz among Hard Rock and metal fans, although they failed to make a larger commercial impact than inititally projected. Even though they never openly declared themselves a Christian band they were seen as an example of Christian Rock – an affiliation King's X always denied but that persisted anyway.

In 1993, the band parted ways with Sam Taylor and took a new approach to their fifth studio album "Dogman" which was released in 1994, resulting in a much heavier sound and lyrics reflecting the personal struggles of singer/bassist Pinnick (who among other things had turned away from Christian faith and later came out as being homosexual). Although the record fit in well with the grunge and Alternative Metal wave of the early to mid nineties and secured King's X a slot in the Woodstock 94 festival, the backlash from their now alienated Christian Rock fanbase didn't help with record sales. Although the trio returned to a more polished and radio-friendly sound with their 1996 album "Ear Candy", their lyrical attitude remained focused on loss of faith, relationship problems and dealing with the hardships of life. Following their departure from their previous major label Atlantic Records the three band members released a slew of Solo Side Project as well as three stylistically very diverse albums under the King's X moniker ("Tape Head" from 1998, "Please Come Home...Mr. Bulbous" from 2000, and "Manic Moonlight" from 2001). After another change of record label three more studio albums ("Black Like Sunday" from 2003, "Ogre Tones" from 2005 and "XV" from 2008) as well as a live album ("Live All Over the Place" from 2004) were released. Since then no new King's X album has been recorded or released, although the band continues to be active live and has definitely become a cult act with a dedicated fanbase and many fans among other musicians, arguably making them a No-Hit Wonder.

2018 onward has seen a resurgence of King's X activity, with Doug Pinnick having a biography written about him: Chris Smith's Life Is What You Make It: The Authorized Biography of Doug Pinnick in June. Rock critic Greg Prato released King's X: The Oral History on February 19, 2019 and the band announced the recording of their latest album "Three Sides of One" which came out in 2022, only fourteen years after its predecessor.


  • Out of the Silent Planet – 1988
  • Gretchen Goes to Nebraska – 1989
  • Faith Hope Love – 1990
  • King's X – 1992
  • Dogman – 1994
  • Ear Candy – 1996
  • Best of King's X – 1997
  • Tape Head – 1998
  • Please Come Home...Mr. Bulbous – 2000
  • Manic Moonlight – 2001
  • Black Like Sunday – 2003
  • Live All Over the Place – 2004
  • Ogre Tones – 2005
  • XV – 2008
  • Three Sides of One – 2022

This band shows examples of:

  • Album Title Drop: Tape Head has one in "Higher Than God":
    Castles and scars align
    View of the tape head crime
  • Ambiguously Christian: This has been following the trio for much of their existence, ranging from the semi-frank declarations of faith on their early albums, mentioning a "new Jerusalem" in songs like "Sometimes", quoting sayings and in once case even a whole chapter from the Bible in the album booklets (although this was mostly the work of producer Sam Taylor who inserted them without consulting the band) up to naming a whole record after a quote by Saint Paul ("Faith Hope Love"). Still, even then they criticized hypocritical preachermen (in "Mission") or lauded Italian science genius-cum-papacy's favorite enemy Galileo Galilei (in "Pleiades"). Their concept pretty much reverted to the opposite after Doug Pinnick openly denied being a Christian anymore and wrote songs like "Looking for Love" (with the pretty blunt statement "I think I lost my faith") and "Run". On later releases they got a little more relaxed about the subject and kindly asked their fans to "pray for me, if you really do believe". King's X have always referred to themselves as "not a Christian band but rather a band of Christians".
    • Compounded by a 2005 interview with Ty Tabor:
      "We may have some beliefs that parallel some of the beliefs that people have in the Christian industry and we have some friends within the Christian industry that we think are super awesome people. It's not that were against the people in the industry — it's the industry itself that we're against. Calling yourself a Christian rock band immediately places you within that industry and that industry make us just wanna turn and run."
  • Apologises a Lot: They have a couple of songs where saying sorry is a major topic, most notably "Over and Over" and "I Don't Know".
  • Ballad of X: Reversed with the "Ear Candy" title ''Lies in the Sand (The Ballad Of...).
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: A number of Pinnick's lyrics deal with his problematic upbringing and his dysfunctional family situation, notably Our Fathers and A Picture. (Also compare the Archnemesis Dad to the white girl Doug Pinnick dates in the song Mr. Evil.)
  • Blasphemous Boast: "Tape Head"'s Higher Than God definitely sounds like one – especially given Doug Pinnick's loss of faith – but is probably more of a tongue-in-cheek moment. Then again, it contains lines like "Once I thought you loved me, everything was true/Thought I found my answer, uhh, thought it was in you". (Also a case of Album Title Drop with the line "Castles and stars align/View of the tape head crime".)
  • Break Up Song: She's Gone Away from "Mr. Bulbous" tells a whole story about this. "Manic Moonlight"'s False Alarm deals with giving up delusions about a possible romance.
  • Celebrity Song: Charlie Sheen on "Please Come Home...Mr.Bulbous" isn't really about the celebrity of the same name. Ty Tabor who penned the song said that he rather chose him for the sake of rhyming.
  • Creepy Children Singing: Played with (probably unintentionally but all the more terrifying) on the "Faith Hope Love" track Mr. Wilson where the members of befriended Texan band Galactic Cowboys sing in mock-children's voices. Makes you wonder if they couldn't find an actual children's choir or if they did it on purpose.
  • Cupid's Arrow: "Cupid shot the wrong guy" (Cupid, "Tape Head"). Obviously backfired.
  • Epic Rocking: True to their prog rocking roots, King's X have some extensive songs in their repertoire, the longest ones being Johnny clocking in at 11:41 minutes and the Title Track from "Faith Hope Love" with almost ten minutes.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: In line with their musical relaunch with "Dogman", the boys lost their final remnants of the big 80's hair they had sported in their early days to go with a more rugged hairstyle. (Doug Pinnick traded his metal mohawk for dreadlocks.) Eventually, the whole band would go short-haired from "Ear Candy" on only to grow their hair long again in the 2000's.
  • Fanservice: A pretty cringeworthy example of this in their video for the 2005 "Ogre Tones" song ''Alone''. We're talking about three men who at the time of shooting the video were well up in their forties or even fifties – and the lead singer being gay no less – and the clip still featured scantily clad dancing girls. None of the parties depicted actually look really happy with the result, so it might just be a case of Executive Meddling by the record company.
  • Feeling Their Age: Since the trio have been playing together since 1980 – and with the same lineup since 1983 – they also have had their songs about aging and moving on too. Some examples of this are It's Love, Fade, or Life Going By. Sooner or Later from 2005's "Ogre Tones" is rather about "everybody leaves me" (or possibly even a case of Nobody Loves the Bassist).
  • Friendship Song: The Fine Art of Friendship from "Faith Hope Love" says it all in the title.
  • Genre Mashup: The band's unique style is a fusion of Hard Rock, Progressive Metal, Alternative Metal, gospel, soul and funk topped off with Beatles-style harmonies.
  • God-Is-Love Songs: As explained above, the "we-aren't-Christian-rock-or-are-we" routine kept following the band during much of the 80's and 90's, and as much as they may have denied it even back then, it's hard not to read lines such as "See the bread, see the wine/See the graft into the vine/This is what is to be/It always made sense to me/Send us a shot of love..." from (Shot of Love off "Out of the Silent Planet") as examples for "God Is Love" songs.
  • Gospel Music: Unsurprisingly - since Doug Pinnick sang with gospel choirs and groups ever since he was a kid - the influence of gospel music can be heard in a few early King's X songs. Their Signature Song Over My Head even takes its cue from Pinnick's childhood ("Grandma used to sing, every night when she was praying...") while Chariot Song from 1992's self-titled album even goes as far as directly quoting the gospel classic Swing Low Sweet Chariot.
  • Gratuitous Rap: We Were Born to Be Loved from 1990's "Faith Hope Love" contains a section of Doug Pinnick doing a short rapped part while 67 from "Ear Candy" starts with him doing a bit between spoken word and rapping.
  • Greatest Hits Album: "Best of King's X" was released in 1997 to fulfill contractual obligations with Atlantic Records. As a gesture to the band's fanbase, the featured songs were chosen in a listeners' poll.
  • Grief Song: Obvious examples are She's Gone Away and Sooner or Later.
  • Grunge: Even though they started out much earlier and were much more about a fusion of prog metal, Beatles pop, Hendrix funk, and gospel grooves than any of the actual grunge bands from Seattle, none other than Pearl Jam's bassist Jeff Ament stated that King's X "invented grunge", while Alice in Chains and Soundgarden also cited them as massive influences on their respective sounds and were good friends with them. Given the aforementioned differences to Kurt Cobain and his army of flannel-clad followers, it does feel like kind of a stretch to see KX as an Ur-Example, let alone a Trope Maker.
  • Hidden Track: There are a number of these on several King's X albums, although mostly just Studio Chatter or tonguetwisters (several of these, in different European languages no less, are strewn across the band's 2000 release, "Please Come Home...Mr. Bulbous").
  • Hymn to Music: Over My Head from the band's second album "Gretchen Goes to Nebraska" is all about the power of music. It quickly became the King's X Signature Song and is also a fan favorite live. Groove Machine – which opens both 1998's "Tape Head" album and virtually every King's X concert – celebrates said groove in a very likewise fashion.
  • Iconic Outfit: Debatable. During their debut album days the band wore retro-fantasy-styled military uniform jackets (which may just have been a Shout-Out to something their idols wore once), however, they relatively soon traded it in for classic 80's rocker's outfits. Then they went for long leather coats and grunge-style flannel shirts when they reinvented themselves with "Dogman" (see above). These days the boys go for a more casual look with dark jeans and T-shirts.
  • In the Style of: Mr. Evil from 1998's "Tape Head" is an exercise in swampy country blues not really to be found anywhere else in the band's catalogue. The whole "Black Like Sunday" album can be seen as this too.
  • Last Note Nightmare: As "Silent Wind" from King's X ends, it suddenly transitions from standard rock into a bizarre solo organ piece which then fades out, only to be replaced with a bunch of very strange low-pitched and reversed voices. It ends the fairly upbeat album on a very eerie note.
    • "Don't Care" off of Dogman is more of a Second-Half Nightmare, but still noteworthy. While it is musically one of the band's darker songs, after the final chorus ends, the song just descends into a frenzy of distorted yells and screams, not at all helped by the drumming completely losing it's mind simultaneously. Eventually, the music just stops, leaving nothing but the yells.
  • Lead Bassist: Doug Pinnick sings lead vocals on a plurality of their songs.
  • List Song: Complain from "Dogman" features lots of examples for reasons why the world seems worth complaining about. The "Ogre Tones" song Freedom works by a similar scheme.
  • Location Song: Probably their most well-known (or infamous) example would be Lost in Germany (found on 1992's "King's X"). Doug Pinnick describes the hardships of touring with hard rock legends AC/DC in Germany, something Pinnick, Tabor and Gaskill recollect as a pretty frustrating experience since the fans of the Aussie rockers couldn't have cared less about the Texan trio. As such, also a case of Real Life Writes the Plot.
  • Lyrical Cold Open: The second track on Dogman ("Shoes") opens with A Cappella vocal harmonies before the super heavy riff kicks in.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "Mr. Evil" is about an abusive and murderous father. Naturally, the music is just as upbeat as most King's X affair.
  • Metal Scream: The early albums are loaded with tracks where Doug Pinnick wails like a banshee, on the top of his lungs at the end of Moanjam, Over My Head, Mission, or World Around Me. He cut down on this habit from 1994's "Dogman" onward, also because his voice became lower during the band's later phase. (There are also a few examples of ''actual'' screaming such as the very last second of Junior's Gone Wild on the self-titled album.)
  • Miniscule Rocking: As if to demonstrate their turning away from prog metal on "Dogman", the frenetic Punk Rock swipe Go to Hell counts a mere 51 seconds from start to finish.
  • New Sound Album: The band changed their approach quite often, ever since the turn from the Power Pop of their pre-King's X days to the dropped D tuning from 1987 onward. The most notable change of direction and attitude still is probably "Dogman" on which they openly abandoned the Christian view, approached darker subjects in their lyrics and opted for a way heavier, grungier and much less proggish sound. (2001's "Manic Moonlight" and 2003's "Black Like Sunday" are also worth mentioning, the former experimenting with Sampling and the latter returning to the poppy songs the band had written during their pre-King's X days.)
  • One-Woman Song: They've had a few of these in their discography, starting with – if you want to count it as one – Goldilox on their debut album, to Julia on 2000's "Mr. Bulbous" and Jenna on "Manic Moonlight" up to Julie on "XV".
  • One-Word Title: Compared to some pretty long titles on their earlier albums King's X cut the title length way down on later releases. For example, of the fourteen songs on 2005's "Ogre Tones" only two (Open My Eyes and Sooner or Later, both not exactly the epitome of verbal diarrhea either) have more than one word in their titles.
  • Pep-Talk Song: Being the survivors they are (and Doug Pinnick with all of his personal troubles in particular), King's X have always had encouraging words for their listeners, perhaps best embodied on the opening track of "Manic Moonlight", Believe:
    If your back is pinned against the wall and the stress is killing you
    And the cross you carry on your back makes it hard for you to move
    In yourself believe, it's alright
    In yourself believe, you're alright
  • Phrase Salad Lyrics: The group's rather experimental 2000 album "Please Come Home...Mr. Bulbous" contains a few examples of this, most notably Fish Bowl Man and Smudge.
  • Power Ballad: Goldilox from the band's debut album is a typical eighties power ballad and is also usually played as one of the last songs in many King's X concerts. Nowadays the group usually turns the microphones towards the crowd and lets them sing the whole song themselves.
  • The Power of Love: Literally their song of the same name, plus the one that got closest to be an actual hit, 1990's It's Love:
    It's love that holds it all together, I just had to let you know.
  • Pun: The band does love a bit of wordplay here and there. The album "Ogre Tones" for example is a pun on "overtones", Marsh Mellow Field (on "Mr. Bulbous") refers to both a swampy landscape and candy, and Ono from "Tape Head" can be seen as both a misspelled "Oh no!" and a reference to one of the most famous widows in music history.
  • Record Producer: Sam Taylor, the man who took the fledgling/struggling band under his wing in 1987, suggested their current name, helped the trio get a record contract, played various instruments on their early albums and even wrote cryptic Christian liner notes, essentially making him the fourth band member and a veritable Team Dad. The band parted ways with him when they thought he wasn't focussing on the joint effort enough anymore (or being overly attached). They wrote the "Dogman" song Fool You about their problematic relationship to their former mentor.
  • Regional Riff: On the early King's X albums Ty Tabor liked to employ sitars and guitar effects to create an oriental sound, notably on songs like Out of the Silent Planet, Not Just for the Dead, or In the New Age. He revived this on the band's latest album (still as of 2019) "XV" in the song Stuck.
  • Revisiting the Roots: The whole idea of 2003's "Black Like Sunday" album was that the band took songs from their early 80's incarnation as "The Edge" (and a little later, "Sneak Preview") and re-recorded them. So in a way this also counts as a special kind of Cover Album too, only that they covered themselves. Moreover, songs like Danger Zone or Won't Turn Back had a distinctive reggae or Power Pop feeling notably absent from their later and proper King's X style.
  • Rock Trio: Although they were a classic rock quartet during their early days, ever since 1983 the band has played as a three-piece.
  • Sampling: On their quite experimental album "Manic Moonlight" the band played around with loops and samples for the first (and last) time before returning to their handmade rock approach with 2003's "Black Like Sunday".
  • Scarab Power: For whatever reason, after the faux classical Fantasy Art covers of their first albums and the decidedly simplistic screen printed dog image on "Dogman" (duh), the King's X artwork department decided to go full Journey with the album cover for "Ear Candy", using an elaborate scarab design. Anyway, still better than the photoshop failures committed by gifted guitarist (and decidedly non-gifted graphic artist) Ty Tabor – apparently for budget reasons – for the following albums "Tape Head", "Mr. Bulbous", and "Manic Moonlight". Then they let their fans design the cover for "Black Like Sunday" in a contest and finally came to their senses with "Ogre Tones" and "XV", letting actual professional artists/photographers do their work again.
  • Self-Titled Album: Their fourth album from 1992 was originally supposed to be called "Since Hector was a Pub" but then went without any title because the band liked the cover artwork so much that they didn't want to spoil it with any writing on it. On a similar note, their debut album was suggested to be entitled "Gretchen Goes to Nebraska" which then became their second record's name. Finally, the debut album's Title Track Out of the Silent Planet did not appear on the record itself but on the follow-up.
  • Shout-Out: The "Ogre Tones" song Bebop quotes the legendary Little Richard hit Tutti Frutti in its chorus ("A whop bop-a-lu a whop bam boo", in case you forgot).
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Even though the difference between all the faith, hope and love on their early releases and everything that came after "Dogman" is pretty striking, King's X somehow averted becoming total cynics and could best be described as realists and survivors these days. (The closest they got to cynicism was probably the "XV" song Broke in which they scoff at people spending too much money and then complaining about being, well, broke.)
  • Solo Side Project: After the band moved up from Atlantic Records to indie label Metal Blade, all three members started getting active in side projects (Ty Tabor in Jughead, Jelly Jam and Platypus, Doug Pinnick in Supershine, Poundhound and KXM) and also released a string of solo albums.
  • Soprano and Gravel: Initially not fully played straight, when Doug Pinnick still regularly hit those really high notes. On later releases – subtly on "King's X", not so subtly on "Dogman" – and also because his voice became lower, he went for a more gutsy vocal approach, displaying the difference to Ty Tabor's naturally higher-pitched and clean voice more effectively.
  • Stop and Go: We Were Born to Be Loved has this in a very teasing way in its ending section. This part even made it to regular appearances with Paul Schaeffer's band on the Late Show With David Letterman.
  • The Something Song: King's X from 1992 contains both "Chariot Song" and "Ooh Song".
  • Title-Only Chorus: "Freedom" has this in both versions.
  • Train Song: "The Train", opening the Ear Candy album, uses train imagery to describe the band's final chance at success with a major label (as expressed in lines like "Last time aboard the train that goes around the world"). The record was indeed the last King's X album with major label Atlantic Records since both parties parted ways after the release and subsequent lack of commercial success.
  • Uncommon Time: Hey, we're talking about Progressive Metal here, so look anywhere on their first four albums for this.
  • Vocal Tag Team: While Doug Pinnick is largely the band's primary lead singer, vocal harmonies are pretty much ubiquitous in their music. Furthermore, Ty Tabor has many songs where he is the lead singer instead. There's also some songs with feature both on lead vocals, namely "Not Just for the Dead" and "Dream in My Life" (both on King's X with verses sung by Ty Tabor, and bridges/choruses by Doug Pinnick) and "Life Going By" (Ty sings up to the finale where Doug joins in with lines of his own).
    • Although Jerry Gaskill takes part in the vocal harmony parts, he only takes the lead in the few songs he penned himself. Therefore it's slightly less the case of this trope but rather one of a few Step Up to the Microphone moments.