King's X - Three Sides Of One: "There’s still plenty of imagination in the tank."

Veteran art-rock trio’s first studio album in 14 years.

King's X: Three Sides Of One cover art
(Image: © Inside Out Music)

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Let’s face it: long-awaited returns can often be lacklustre. A cock-up in the personal chemistry department. Blunted songwriting chops. An ill-advised new direction or the wrong producer. Delightful, then, to report that no such ills afflict Three Sides Of One. Galvanised, perhaps, by the flurry of interest around Greg Pato’s 2019 book King’s X: The Oral HistoryPearl Jam’s Jeff Ament and Anthrax’s Scott Ian were among the celeb admirers singing their praises within - the right royal trio of bassist Dug Pinnick, drummer Jerry Gaskill and guitarist Ty Tabor are back with this funked-up, prog metal cracker.

This is particularly good news considering that in 2012, an annus horribilis for Gaskill, the drummer suffered both a major heart attack and the complete destruction of his Seabright, New Jersey home during Hurricane Sandy. It’s taken a decade, really, for him and his King’s X bandmates to fully recalibrate. In the interim, decent live album and solo album releases have formed a kind of holding pattern, but now comes the main attraction: their first studio record since 2008’s XV.

From the moment Tabor’s treated guitar chords crash in on opener Let It Rain, it’s clear producer Michael Parnin has brought maximum depth and definition to proceedings. With its title speaking of the band’s indivisible unity, Three Sides Of One is the sound of old-school interaction, King’s X making fine, if-by-now-familiar use of Hendrix-ish guitar chords/grooves and Beatles-esque melodies. They also exude a power trio poise reminiscent of Cream (see Nothing But The Truth) and funky, early 90s UK rockers Stress (anyone remember them?). 

Although the succinct and exhilarating Festival, which calls out for a clan gathering of the hard rock faithful, seems to celebrate the lifting of Covid restrictions, it’s perhaps unsurprising that a trio whose average age is now 65 are increasingly absorbed by mortality. Still, the superb Big Star-meets-Soundgarden-like She Called Me Home acknowledges the support from family and friends that got Gaskill firing on all cylinders again, while the taut, punchy Holidays has a winning wistfulness.

Two of the best songs here, All God’s Children and Take The Time, make excellent use of glistening acoustic guitar intros, but they also exhibit that welcome melodic gift which has always lifted King’s X that little bit higher. If Three Sides Of One turns out to be the band’s studio album swan song, they will have gone out on a high. On this evidence, though, there’s still plenty of verve and imagination in the tank.

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James McNair

James McNair grew up in East Kilbride, Scotland, lived and worked in London for 30 years, and now resides in Whitley Bay, where life is less glamorous, but also cheaper and more breathable. He has written for Classic Rock, Prog, Mojo, Q, Planet Rock, The Independent, The Idler, The Times, and The Telegraph, among other outlets. His first foray into print was a review of Yum Yum Thai restaurant in Stoke Newington, and in many ways it’s been downhill ever since. His favourite Prog bands are Focus and Pavlov’s Dog and he only ever sits down to write atop a Persian rug gifted to him by a former ELP roadie.