King’s X Hit Record “Dogman” Turns 25 Years Old

The early-to-mid 1990s was a wild time for heavy music. With the Seattle bands like Pearl Jam and Nirvana blowing up and killing off a lot of hair metal bands, and Metallica and Pantera dominating, and death and black metal gaining steam and mainstream success, other kinds of rock bands struggled to cut through. King’s X already had four albums out by the time Dogman (Atlantic) landed in shops. Their heavy rock flirted with metal, but really they have always bucked trends and classifications. Interpreting their influences and their bare lyrics full of religious symbolism and metaphors have earned them a legion of fans and lengthy career worthy of respect.

Dogman is full of full out bangers. While the band continued to evolve on their self-titled album in 1992 and had a legit minor hit song at radio with ‘Black Flag’, the band always felt (maybe they still do) that they are worlds heavier live than on record. This ain’t a bad thing, to be honest. So they split from their former producer Sam Taylor who worked on their first four albums in favor of Brendan O’Brien who had just recently worked with Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, Soundgarden, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pete Droge, and more. Brendan was hot at that moment, and on his way to building the legendary career, he has now. The key to the KX sound is the low bottom end, great riffs, and the terrific harmony vocals, coated in a Beatles sauce of psych-rock goodness. Dogman is the album to really get this balance right aurally (all of their albums sound good so don’t write letters people).

Dogman kicks off with the popular and crushing eponymous title track. With a great descending riff, bashing drums, and stellar vocals by Dug Pinnick and the gang vocals by the entire band, the track was breakthrough. It’s still their only charting hit, at #20 on Billboard’s Rock charts in 1994. There are a lot of fans today who found the band through that song and MTV played the video quite a bit when it first came out.

Despite the power of the opener, the record has no weak tracks at all. ‘Shoes’ opens with insane a Capella vocals and another bruising riff. ‘Pretend’ was a minor hit. When you hear these tracks you really understand what an underrated batch of stellar musicians. Ty Tabor’s licks and soulful solos match up to anyone from that era, and Jerry Gaskill is always tight as a drummer. Pinnick is known for his milk and honey voice full of soul, but his bass playing is amazeballs too. One of the few bassists that sounds like he is playing finger-style when he uses a pick mostly. Take note bass students, and dial in that tone from the gods.

The bluesy and pensive ‘Flys and Blue Skys’ is deep, while ‘Black The Sky’ is another riffy jam. Tabor always has a gift of covering main riffs, but adding color too. The albums other minor hit ‘Fool You’ could give Alice In Chains a run for their money on the vocals. I know KX fans get tired of the comparisons there. King’s X pre-dates AIC by many years and they harmonize differently. But few other bands have this as an iconic part of their sounds as these two do. ‘Don’t Care’ is a heavy deep cut that could have had a life at radio. And if you listen to ‘Sunshine Rain’ and it doesn’t make you cry or give you goose pimples, you simply lack a beating heart. Uptempo rocker ‘Complain’ is badass! ‘Human Behaviour’ is another mid-tempo track with heaviness and start-stop riffs. The mellow ballad ‘Cigarettes’ is another essential track from the band. When we caught them last fall, the entire audience drowned out the band by singing along. Amazing. ‘Go To Hell’ is about as punk as King’s X could ever get. Fifty-one seconds of fun and still played live on occasion. ‘Pillow’ is another belter and a staple of their setlists live. Full of emotional strength and rough-hewn riffs and singing. The album closes with a cover (because the 1990s) of the band playing Jimi Hendrix gem ‘Manic Depression”.

Die-hard fans won’t debate you about Dogman being a classic, but also would likely choose other albums as the best representation of the band. Still, this album was not just great for its time but great for all-time.