syn-er-gy: noun 1. the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce combined effect greater than the sum of their separate parts.
In my old age, I'm learning to not be too quick to judge, to not shoot from the hip without looking closely at what I'm shooting. And in this case, that concept has served me very well.
I will admit to skepticism when I first heard of this grouping. I love dUg Pinnick, but he's had a damned rough patch of ill-health, combined with a tremendous amount of musical output in the last year, or so. I'm a big fan of George Lynch, but his inability to make anything excite me over the last few years had made we wonder where the magic was hiding. Ray Luzier? I knew he was a revered drummer, but I can't say that I'm a Korn fan (that could be more generational than anything, and I allow for that likelihood). Turns out that my cynicism was just that - these guys have turned in one hell of a good album, and I hope we've only heard the beginning from KXM.
Article continues below...
I think the big winner here is George Lynch - the man sounds fantastic in this setting. So do dUg and Ray, don't get me wrong, but they've been pretty consistently on the money of late. Deservedly, or not, Lynch has been eyeballed with suspicion by long time fans of late.
It's been too long since he's had a solid hit, and constant lineup changes have left his Mob a mess. Granted, these are tough times, but when did that ever stop rock fans from being a bit hard assed in their expectations?
At any rate, George is on fire throughout this entire disc, and it sounds like he's become a much more multi-dimensional six stringer than we're used to hearing. You can still hear many Lynchisms, but there's a whole menu of new options, sounds, and chops coming from this classic axeman.
KXM will end up on a lot of year end top 10s, and here's why... the songs.
The drum part that kicks off 'Stars' swings - then it's straight into thunderous double bass fury, low end bass and scratchy, edgy staccato guitar riff that walks perfectly up a patent pending dUg verse of the highest order. Then a super melodic chorus explodes and you get it. The parts mesh together wonderfully, and it all makes sense. Every star shines brightly, and a supergroup is born.
Lynch's solo is a pitch shifted beauty, and dUg is on message as always. Luzier? Wow, this guy is truly a monster, but I'm thinking most of you already knew this.
'Rescue Me' is the single, and it's a heavy slice mechanized guitar plucking that shows that George Lynch has been keeping up with his woodshedding and shredding. Gliding and cascading across Pinnick's subsonic bass, the guitar part shifts marvelously from a plucked verse into a sophisticated bunch of picking under the chorus, and come solo time it's a funkified version of Lynch's classic storeroom of fretboard histrionics. Luzier swaggers on this one - bouncing of the walls magnificently.
The combination of chops and great song craft dominates this record, and Gun Fight truly sound like a Dokken/King's X mashup, and that isn't a putdown in any sense, it's just identifying some classic DNA. Pinnick is one of the best protest writers on the planet, and it'd be wise to listen to these lyrics. Fair warning - there's a new sheriff in town, and damn do I hope these boys find a way to take this show on the road.
Acoustic pastorals? Who'da thunk? 'Never Stop' is a gorgeous ballad that has a distinctly 70s vibe - an inspired moment that shows just how far these guys can go from their signature models. Lynch's playing is sublime as his fills are melodic, tasteful, and sweet. One thing I haven't mentioned yet is the quality of the background vocals on display - very nice. Lynch's solo is a classic, and Pinnick wears love well.
Lynch kicks off 'Faith Is A Room' with a riff that both takes us backwards and forwards - I can hear the past calling, but it's more like looking back at an old lover and remembering the happier moments. The song comes first, but boy can these guys play. Luzier is masterful at kicking the beat around like a beach ball, but never letting the ball go out of bounds - damned fun to listen to, he is. Mr Scary goes to the electric church? Wait until you hear the chorale bridge...
Pinnick's bass playing never gets enough ink, but he's a sly, slick player who's playing always subtly carries his vocals - on I'll Be OK, he's reminiscent of a sure handed NBA guard bringing the ball up the court. KXM sound like they've been playing together for ages, rather than months. The breakdown on this tune approaches any fusion you'd care to mention, as Lynch pushes the outer limits and makes me think this may be his best playing yet.
Lyrically, Pinnick is famous, at least to me, as being a guy who will show you every card in his deck if you're listening, but he delivers it without the drama that would render it tiresome - instead, his delivery is melodically matter-of-fact, and it's like reading a great book. George is again pushing into new definitions of some old familiar territory, and it's all good. Very, very good.
What's gotten into George? That should have been the title of this record. This delivers on the promise of his entire career. 'Love' is a melodic masterpiece. Kind of proggy, kind of Beatle-y, kind of right here, right now. I'm a big fan of anyone playing with equal, or even greater talents than their own - that's what makes the new music business interesting to me. Are you teaming with contemporaries, or hiring warm bodies. KXM decided to go all out, and do it right. They push one another, chase each other, and they sound like they are absolutely loving what they are doing.
'Burn' has a science fiction vibe, a dark kind of Blade Runner thing going on, with a little Zep thrown in for good measure. I'm glad that these guys chose to play with time a bit, and not to just throw something together haphazardly - the turns and twists are brilliant, and this tunes middle section is a perfect example. It sounds new, it sounds editing, and sounds like a new classic.
Teaming George Lynch up with an absolute monster of a rhythm section - what a fantastic thought. 'Human Friction' works on every level - the playing is both catchy and sophisticated, and it's pretty. Pinnick is on an amazing run that started with last year's Pinnick Gales Pridgen record, then with his almost completely solo solo record, 'Naked', and continues here. The man is just unstoppable. I'll admit that I thought this might be just a plug in an play record, but it's a well built beast.
Luzier is brilliant on every track - but, maybe especially so on 'Tranquilize'. This is exactly why I don't write about music I don't like. Why? I'd rather wait on something like this that blows my mind on many levels, and leaves me smiling. I write as I listen, and this makes it fun - makes me feel alive, vital, like Rock Ain't Near Dead...
dUg, George, Ray - thank you, this is a brilliant record, fellas.