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King's X Manic Moonlight

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Friday, November 30, 2001 @ 2:30 PM


(Metal Blade)

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Long before there was Creed, there was King's X, a band whose openly spiritual hard rock straddled the secular/Christian fence and who were deliberately vague as to just which side of said fence they leaned more toward. Unfortunately for King's X, they were a decade ahead of their time. Their string of big label albums were modestly successful, but the band's uplifting, often understated music always got overshadowed by the grim bluster of Metallica or Megadeth or the flamboyant hedonism of the hair bands.

By the mid-'90s, King's X had settled into life as semi-obscure never-wases. Then along came Creed, whose essence is steeped in the same sort of earnestness and unabashed spirituality. With just a bit more muscle and showiness than King's X had, they simply pushed all the nu/rap metal knuckledraggers aside and soared right into the Top 10. Bastards! But while platinum glory may have eluded King's X - though they were named one of VH1's Top 100 Hard Rock Bands - the trio continued plugging away. And to their credit, they've never compromised their sound nor grasped at the straws of trendiness in a desperate attempt to hit the big time.

Manic Moonlight, the band's ninth studio release, is no different than its predecessors in that it delivers enjoyable, inspiring, no bullshit hard rock one can listen to and feel better a little bit better about things when it's over. After going off on a bit of a wacky tangent with 2000's eccentric, Please Come Home ... Mr. Bulbous, Manic Moonlight finds King's X back on the straight and narrow, offering their trademark rousing melodies, luxurious harmonies and generally positive messages - the abrasive "Yeah" being a notable exception. Guitarist Ty Tabor does fiddle around a bit with loops and samples here, but manages to integrate them fairly seemlessly into the mix so there's never any White Zombie-like moments. Indeed, the pulsing electronic intro to "Static" morphs perfectly into a crunching hard rock crescendo for one of Moonlight's more dynamic moments. On the more straight forward "Skeptical Winds," "Jenna" or "Vegetable" any embellishments merely give the tracks more backbone, the band's keen, Beatles-like melodic sense is left unscathed.

Much of Manic Moonlight is catchier and more genuine than anything you'll hear on modern rock radio these days - and that includes the overwrought Creed, who no doubt are ruling the airwaves again right now. Sadly, King's X days of radio contention are over and only their diehard audience is likely to appreciate Manic's magic. But just as King's X have stuck to their musical guns, their audience - modest though it is - has stood by them for nearly 20 years. Will Creed be able to say that? Fat fucking chance.

****


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