The mention of King's X brings many things to mind: great melodies, rich vocal harmonies, inventive rhythms and dead-on musicianship, just to name a few. In the late 80s they pioneered a new sound that married soul with metal, a sound which brought the proverbial fame and fortune only to the many bands that copied the King's X sound. So after more than a decade, the question remains of whether a band that made its name with a then new sound should continue trying to recreate this magical mixture of their early years or should it forge ahead, breaking new ground. While last years excellent Please Come Home Mr. Bulbous fell into the former category, Manic Moonlight definitely belongs in the later. With guitarist Ty Tabor busy on more side projects than a Nashville studio musician, bassist Doug Pinnick wrote the lion's share of the material, basing most of them on rhythm tracks from Acid Foundry software, loops that in nearly all cases could easily have been removed from the final mix with no loss. In other cases, they push drummer Jerry Gaskill further back in the mix. For anyone who's heard him, Jerry definitely has a signature sound that has influenced legions of drummers and he deserves to be heard. Because Doug wrote the material, Manic Moonlight is more like a Poundhound album with Ty playing guitar: heavy on the soul and groove, light on the vocal harmonies (in fact, you can only make out Ty's voice in one track). Regardless, the songs are quite good but are a departure from the usual King's X sound. While part of me wishes for a return to their very early days, the rest of me applauds them for trying something new. Many of the songs are quite lengthy, but don't expect any intricate arrangements like "We Were Born To Be Loved" from Faith, Hope, Love. Instead, these are extended jams that would play better with a bit of judicious trimming. Some of the standout songs include the title track, which would have been at home on the Bulbous CD, "False Alarm" with it's soaring chorus melody, and "Static" which makes effective use of the drum loops, is completely different from anything King's X has done before and yet retains the King's X stamp. So it's not your father's Oldsmobile but it shares a lot of the same parts, some retooled for a new century, some just like you remember. It's a good ride, but with King's X anything less than "great" is a bit of a letdown.
This review first appeared in WhatzUp, November 2001.