King's X have been one of my favorite bands ever since I first popped their newly released second album, Gretchen Goes To Nebraska, into my Walkman cassette player and listened to it religiously every day until the tape eventually wore out. I've got the CD now, of course, and 21 years later it remains one of my favorite albums of all time.
Gretchen prompted me to run out and pick up their debut album, Out of the Silent Planet, which I found nearly as amazing, as well as every album the band has released since. Our relationship took a turn for the worse in the late '90s when their songwriting and production consistency began to waver significantly starting with 1998's Tape Head, when they switched to Metal Blade records, and it just continued to go downhill from there. They finally redeemed themselves somewhat in 2008 with their much-improved XV album.
I have seen King's X live about a half dozen times, the first being during their 1994 Dogman tour, and most recently opening for Porcupine Tree last year, and they are still one of the best power trios in the business. Like Rush, they are able to create a huge wall of sound in concert with only three guys, but you often miss out on a lot of the additional guitar (and the occasional sitar or dulcimer) parts that Ty Tabor layers all over many of their best tracks. I'd love to see them take an extra guitarist with them on tour.
The thing that has annoyed me the most about their live performances over the last decade, is that they now tune their instruments down at least a whole step from the original songs, which makes the mix sound a lot muddier, especially with Doug Pinnick's bass pummeling your internal organs to a pulp during every song. His bass is tuned so low and so loud in concert now that it completely dominates the mix. I think the Navy uses him to transmit VLF signals to nuclear subs patrolling the Arctic circle. Just compare the two bonus performances from 1990 and you will see how much better their live sound was back then, especially the lead and harmony vocals.