For his last solo record, the rocky, almost impassable, road that was the decidedly downcast Naked, dUg Pinnick turned inward to explore depression, an affliction the King’s X front man has long battled.

A heroic attempt to illustrate, in stark and rather ugly tones, its effects on his art and his life, Naked was an emotional bloodletting, with stories and darkly soulful melodies that rarely let in any light.

Working with Korn’s Ray Luzier and former Dokken guitarist George Lynch in the new supergroup KXM has, at least for now, brightened his disposition somewhat. An inspired collaboration, KXM welds gnarly guitar riffs to eclectic, but hard-hitting, drumming and some of Lynch’s toughest, and most tenacious, bass lines on the trio’s grungy, groove-laden self-titled debut for Rat Pak Records.

Redemption songs like “Rescue Me,” “I’ll Be Okay” and “Faith Is a Room” are life-affirming expressions of belief and vulnerability, these almost religious awakenings that borrow a cup of King’s X’s sunnier psychedelia to bathe them in dirty radiance. A flashlight shines on the dark subject matter of “Sleep,” exposing domestic abuse to the light of day in soulful, slow-burning build-ups that add emotional weight to every lyrical line, while “Do It Now,” “Love” and “Burn” are similarly paced, prowling in the bushes or surging ahead rather than running full out, with the angry, in-your-face first single “Gun Fight” – this provocative defense of Constitutional and human rights – blazes with intensity and digs its hooks into you.

More concerned than ever about the riff, Lynch balls them up into meaty, wicked fists of sound, while still tearing off searing, agile solos. And while Pinnick’s vocals are captivating and passionate, it’s Luzier’s stick work that’s the real revelation here. Freed from Korn, he explores a wide variety of textures with KXM and displays surprising skill, all while making the songs move at whatever gear they want to shift to. And while a couple of songs do not coalesce as tightly as they should, the great majority demand attention and keep it. Looking for a “Gun Fight” of the sonic variety? You’ll get one from KXM.

Label: Rat Pak Records