KXM - Circle of Dolls

KXM Circle of Dolls cover
KXM
Circle of Dolls
RatPak Records
2019
7.5
KXM are a powerful and multifaceted trio comprising by Korn’s drummer Ray Luzier, bassist/vocalist dUg Pinnick of King’s X fame, and Dokken/Lynch Mob etc., guitarist George Lynch.
 
They’ve released a couple of albums up to this point, both of which were fairly interesting, varied and obviously drawing inspiration from a myriad different places, as diverse as the players themselves. “Circle of Dolls” is more or less the same, but I am guessing that this album was done in a more jammy way, with a certain tightness of time that tends to show a little.
 
“War of Words” (with its excellent wordplay) is an intellectually challenging tour d’ force, which opens the album in a massively groovy way, with Lynch just letting rip on select instances, while his collages just play off each other.
 
“Mind Swamp” is a smokier mid-tempo tune, with still a pretty strong groove, but albeit a slower and heavier one. It’s thick like molasses groove, gives it a totally different hazy flavor, that’s sort of takes a little to set in, but once it does, it stays with ya.
 
The title track that follows ain’t bad, but it mostly “happens” during the melodic and oddly percussive chorus, so it might take a few spins to settle in, as well. It’s unusual for me to not like what Lynch is doing – no matter how out there or varied it might be, but his soloing here, doesn’t impress me much. Uh, uh…
 
Neither does most of the slow winding “Lightning”. The riff’s okay but the song’s pretty spartan otherwise… the solo however here, while not fast, is pretty interesting and bluesy and dominates the otherwise mediocre track.
 
“Time Flies” has a nice intro and a smooth prog- sound, with Pinnick assuming a whinier but pretty interesting vocal tone that works great in the conjunction with what the other two guys do… the crescendos of this smooth sounding tune, are done in a rather ingenious way and help shift the direction of the album a bit without disrupting it’s flow completely. Lynch’s solo is a little on the noodle y side for my tastes, but nothing terrible like.
 
“Twice” is likewise a jammy piece that could have been in a number of semi-prog 90s albums and it wouldn’t hurt or enhance those albums either by its token.
 
“Big as the Sun” builds an interesting groove that’s rather “black” and feels like a mix of funk, reggae with some bluesy soul… it again pushes the album in a different direction without screwing it up. The fluid fret-board wizardry of the solo is one of the finest examples of Lynch’s tasteful playing and it stands out from the rest of the song – in a good way – not only because it’s different, but also because it’s pretty awesome.
 
“Vessel of Destruction” is a cathartic, purging of bad thoughts and feelings, in a heavy-funky rock way and this time it’s mostly Luzier that shows off than Lynch who remains timid with his contributions.
 
“A Day without Me” is a heavy complex piece that follow’s the bands usual MO, without however being able to stand out in a clear way. Lynch’s solo is appropriate and quite interesting, but the rest of the song leaves a bit to be desired.
 
“Wide Awake” has a little more character and is able to survive, despite the “dark” mid-tempo, which dominates it, because of the smart use of dynamics in and around the chorus. Lynch provides another cool solo.
 
I wasn’t sure of what to make of “Shadow Lover”… I had a good feeling and it’s dark sexy tone, was nice, even the sort of semi whispered but still melodic vocals… felt cool, but it lacked a proper hook, until Lynch sort of ex-machina’ed a kick-ass solo in the middle to save the track from just plodding. A good idea, with a less than stellar result.
 
“Cold Sweats” had me also divided, I liked its funky grooves and interesting guitar voicing, but overall the track didn’t click with me and kept leaving me lukewarm even after repeated listens.
 
“The Border” floydizes the KXM sound, up to a point, and has some pretty epic sounding riffs and interesting licks all around, but also felt a little oddly tacked at the end of the album – before an edited and a tad more aggressive (if my ears and memory don’t deceive me) version of the opener “War of Words”.
 
“Scatterbrain” the predecessor to this album, despite being true to its title, felt a little more focused than this album, which might have benefited from losing a couple of tracks. Still if you’re a fan of the trio of musicians responsible for all the noises here, I think you won’t be disappointed and it’s weird musicality, will definitely appeal to the musicians among rock fans more than a little. Cool then to be dancing in the “Circle of the Dolls”, you should try it sometime!