The news of the formation of the band KXM were exciting. With the members Dug Pinnick (King’s X) on bass and vocals, George Lynch (Dokken, Lynch Mob, Sweet & Lynch) on guitars and drummer Ray Luzier (Korn, David Lee Roth) I expected the debut record that came out in 2014 to be a real killer. It wasn’t a killer but it was an interesting piece of music that didn’t stick by first listen – a grower. I liked it when it came out but truth be told, I really haven’t given the album much thought in a few years. KXM also released a follow-up in 2017 called Scatterbrain, an album that completely passed me by. I didn’t know it existed until I started writing this review. Now, with a third effort out, I really don’t have any expectations at all – which do not mean I’m blasé about it – but my hope is up that they will deliver the goods this time.
The album’s leading single, “War Of Words”, open the album with a bang. It’s upbeat, faster-paced and bouncy with some kind of ballsy groove. The main guitar-riff brings a more muscular Dokken to mind and Lynch’s solo is awesome while the song structure itself is more 90’s ridden with a heavy outlook. It’s an ok tune but it fails to grab me. With a rolling rhythm the somewhat spacey yet groove-laden “Mind Swamp” introduces itself. Some melodies here almost feels levitating but the tune is also meaty and rough – and memorable. This one I do like. The title-track comes in a mid pace on a stompy rhythm and a darker, sullen and earthy arrangement. Groove oriented, gritty guitars and a thick, in-your-face refrain that catches on without being the least pop-hit laden, the tune comes on as the strongest so far.
The album’s longest track “Lightning” is also the second single. Add to the fact that the song is slower paced, trippy with a smooth albeit not poppy main melody. Dark with a lust for jamming, parts of the tune takes us back to the late 60′ melody wise and it feels like a weird choice as a single. It’s a good song but it’s also a grower. Latest single “Time Flies” is uptempo, straightforward, slightly pop-laden and laid-back on a big soundscape and prominent backing vocals. Even though it’s the most accessible song so far with a chorus that’s effective while listening, I can’t seem to grasp it and it ends up being good but a bit forgettable. The upbeat and straightforward “Twice” is my favorite tune on the record. On juicy rock-groove, massive melodies and catchy refrain on top, the tune sticks from go. The dynamics also rises because of the 1967 Beatles vocal-harmonies that lies as contrast to the rest of the song.
“Big As The Sun” is one raunchy stomper, fat-grooved, slightly funky and rhythmic in a Classic Rock kinda way complete with hand-claps, a huge refrain and an amazing melodic solo from Lynch. Brilliant. The band takes an opposite turn with the dark, gloomy and hard “Vessel Of Destruction”. Distorted and ballsy on a Metal note, the tune brings on a dystopian atmosphere, all bedraggled and forlorn. It’s also heavy, in-your-face and rowdy but with a distinct melody. I took a liking to the song right away. “A Day Without Me” holds a messy groove and is heavy, tough and riffy and comes across like a darker Lynch Mob with Pinnick on vocals. There’s a bluesy touch buried in there and it’s also somewhat grungy. The main-melody is alright but the song’s structure is as messy as its groove which makes it hard for me to embrace the tune. I can’t find a distinct chorus either which doesn’t help.
“Wide Awake” brings on a darker ambience, a meaty bass-line and a spaced-out soundscape but it also pretty heavy on a beefy groove all over. The refrain is punchy and gets in your face, pretty good but could be catchier. A decent song without being overly impressive. “Shadow Lover” is somewhat trippy albeit punchy with a pounding rhythm, dark and sullen with some muscular riffing from Lynch. It’s a straightforward number that lacks memorable melodies – the song faded from my memory the second it ended. On an upbeat and rhythmic note, “Cold Sweats” blends a sweaty groove, crunchy guitars with pop-melodies and a jaunty pre-chorus that’s reminiscent of 50’s Pop. However, the chorus doesn’t stick at all and leaves the song bringing on promises it can’t keep. Closing track “The Border” brings on some Classic Rock riffing, clearly Led Zep influenced on a stompy groove and a juicy rhythm-section. A spot-on chorus brings the song home, ending the record on a positive note.
Having never heard a note of Scatterbrain, I only have the debut to compare this to and I must say I’m not sure which album is the better of the two. Where this album comes with higher highs than the debut, it also comes with lower lows. Neither albums has any stinkers but the filler quote is larger on this one and several songs are the kind of tunes that are good while listening but really doesn’t linger on for long afterwards which means I find the debut a more even effort than this one. The musicians’ efforts are, of course, completely flawless and the band do have a sound of their own where none of the guys’ day-jobs takes over at any point. That said, it’s almost unfair to write a review of an album like this after only a few spins as the record probably will grown on me further. But as for now, Circle Of Dolls gets a “good but a few steps from great” review from me.
Other KXM reviews:
2. Mind Swamp
3. Circle Of Dolls
5. Time Flies
7. Big As The Sun
8. Vessel Of Destruction
9. A Day Without Me
10. Wide Awake
11. Shadow Lover
12. Cold Sweats
13. The Border