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King's X

When King's X swaggered out of Houston two decades back, the band challenged both ears and preconceptions with rippling, progressive rock riffs and hints of then-hip "funk-metal" to go along with almost-gospel vocal harmonies, soulful sentiments and pop sensibilities borrowed from the British Invasion.

Even weirder, the band's guitarist and drummer looked like Rush-lovin' comic-book collectors, and the frontman looked like a wiry, triathlete-type bloke. With a Mohawk.

Oddly, King's X has always been marketed as a hard-rock act, which led to the band getting booed by blinkered AC/DC fans during a 1991 opening stint. Since departing the major-label mill in the mid-'90s, though, the band's become perhaps the ultimate veteran cult act. And there's still no one who sounds quite like 'em: Frontman Dug Pinnick's plaintive, rubbery inflections and monstrous (often 12-string) bass tones lend the trio an oddly lean-yet-orchestral quality. This year's XV revisited King's X's spirited (and spiritual) strengths—and, it should be noted, the Billboard Top 200.

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