W hether they'll cop to it or not, American combo King's X belong to that weird and mysterious fraternal order of cult bands whose fans are legion and loyal but operating well beneath the radar of the mainstream.
When they're not attending every conceivable gig and snapping up rarities and bootlegs, these dedicated souls gather on the Internet to swap King's X minutiae using highly specialized language lost on those outside the circle.
Certainly, the initiation into the world of King's X is easier than most, owing to the trio's unusually assured playing and stunning fluency in hard rock, blues, gospel and pop, frequently in evidence within the same song.
Sure, you many encounter Christian overtones and head-spinning time changes, but with King's X there's actually structure, which is more than can be said of many baggy, stoner jam bands with equally zealous followers.
Over the past decade, the trio of bassist/singer Doug Pinnick, guitarist Ty Tabor and drummer Jerry Gaskill have survived oddball tour pairings (Scorpions!?) and radio indifference to create a body of work that spotlights their strengths as superb musicians, charts be damned.
The eighth King's X disc, the very, very good Please Come Home... Mr. Bulbous, once again sets Pinnick's serious-minded, hell-in-a-handbasket lyrics against wildly rhythmic scorchers pockmarked by German and Japanese voice-overs and monstrous riffs. Accomplished, yes. Polite, no.
"I don't know about us being too broad stylistically for radio," Gaskill offers from D.C. "I mean, look at Yes. They were pretty broad and yet they had some big radio hits. So I think it's just what the general public happens to tap into at a certain time. If they tap into us and we become big, then we become the norm."
That could be, but if a now-defunct management deal with Toronto-based SRO -- see Rush, Van Halen, Extreme and the Tea Party -- couldn't push the door open wider for King's X, one wonders what can. Maybe those obsessive, computer-savvy fans aren't so bad after all.
"It's wild, but we've had letters from all sorts of places where we've never actually played," Gaskill says, "like Brazil, Spain and Australia. We're possibly going to play in Japan soon. We're selling records there and we're all using Yamaha equipment now, so it could be a lucrative time."
And listen up, ladies -- King's X wants you. "Girls just don't come to King's X shows," Gaskill gripes good-naturedly, "which is a drag. And those who do come are there with their boyfriends.
"It would be nice to have some chicks come to the shows, but we're kind of like Rush in that respect. I mean, I'm not married, Doug's not married and Ty's almost not married. So.... "
KING'S X, with VICIOUSPHERE and PODUNK, at the Reverb (651 Queen West), tonight (Thursday, August 3). $17-$20. 504-0744.