If Out Of The Silent Planet was ahead of its time when it was originally released in 1988, the passing of the years have done nothing to diminish its power. The trio of lead vocalist/bassist Doug Pinnick (who now calls himself dUg apparently), guitarist Ty Tabor and drummer Jerry Gaskill had been searching for an outlet for their music for years under the name Sneak Preview before they found an unlikely home at Megaforce Records. The label was known at the time as the flagship for the burgeoning thrash metal scene led by Metallica and Anthrax. Rebranded as King’s X, their sound was tricky to categorise, but it definitely wasn’t thrash.
With the benefit of hindsight, the trio’s debut can be seen as a precursor to the grunge explosion, thanks to Tabor’s chugging drop-tuned guitar riffs. But there’s more to them than that. They had an ear for soaring melodies and vocal harmonies that most grunge bands never replicated.
And where grunge songwriters were resolutely downbeat in their lyrics – heroin is a hell of a drug – King’s X came out of the Christian rock circuit (even if Pinnick has since rejected any attempt to categorise the outfit under the label). Certainly, they weren’t slinging bibles out to their audiences like Stryper, but their faith was never far from the surface. ‘I stand here waiting for New Jerusalem,’ sings Pinnick in Sometimes, _‘I know it’s greater than the world outside’. _
The album kicks off with the rollicking In The New Age as the vocalist unleashes his trademark bluesy wail, then when Tabor’s exquisite guitar lick starts Goldilox the hooks sink in deep and never let go. The song showcases another key component to the King’s X sound: the use of close vocal harmonies between the three members to lift the melodies to a higher plane.
Wonder might be the most overtly grungy track on the album, with a growling riff from Tabor. King features a call and response between Pinnick and the rest of the band that reveals their gospel influences, a technique they repeat in the enormously catchy Shot Of Love which boasts a chorus three miles wide.
Out Of The Silent Planet might not be prog in the classic sense (odd-time signatures, concept album, sci-fi, fantasy lyrical sense), but its unmistakeably progressive music that sounds as fresh and vital now as it did in 1988. Upon release, the album was embraced by critics but failed to set the charts alight, peaking at Number 144 in the United States. Here in its new form – with a decent set of pics from yore and a solid new essay on the genesis of this band from Prog’s own Malcolm Dome – it’s a lost album ripe for rediscovery.