After the relatively eccentric Please Come Home...Mr. Bulbous, King's X returned with the most confidently organic and groove-based record of their career. Manic Moonlight, the Texas trio's ninth album, is the sound of a band who has vented their demons and come to terms with themselves. This can be credited to several factors: for one, the band has been creating music in a low-pressure environment since finding sanctuary in the supportive indie label Metal Blade in 1998 (following nearly a decade-long sentence in major-label hell). For another, Ty Tabor and Doug Pinnick have both satisfied some of their extracurricular creative impulses with solo albums and other projects, which has contributed to the band's freshness and newfound ability to write collaboratively (which they have done since the wonderfully cathartic Tape Head album in 1998). On Manic Moonlight, the group's musical and lyrical themes are simple ones, developed with confidence and conviction. The album opener, "Believe," says it all; over an understated, soulful groove that would make Sly Stone proud, singer Pinnick advises, simply, "in yourself believe, it's alright." No longer grappling so much with issues of God and spiritual faith (Pinnick has publicly announced his abandonment of Christianity), the band now finds strength in themselves and address the day-to-day struggles of personal longing, love, and getting older. There is a Zen-like acceptance of all things, good and bad, running through the album; in the sublime "False Alarm," the singer doesn't sound bitter about his failed relationship, but reckons, "I guess it was a false alarm." Meanwhile, on the dark, creeping "Static," existential confusion is summed up in the simple mantra, "I don't wanna do this anymore. I really wanna do it." Musically, King's X has never sounded earthier; much of the band's psychedelic leanings, exotic instrumentation, and metallic aggression are stripped away, leaving the bare bones of the band itself, minimally produced, but playing the hell out of the material. The ragged funk verse of "Vegetable" features Ty Tabor's most drily unadorned guitar tone yet, while Pinnick's bass sounds like it's pumping out of a blown speaker. And ironically, the trio's first-time use of electronic loops also enhances the organic feel of the album; Tabor's programming adds a warmly textured, percussive nuance in the record (although unfortunately, nearly every song on the disc starts the same way -- with the unaccompanied drum machine -- but that's a minor point). Manic Moonlight finds King's X getting back to basics while continuing to push outward and experiment; it is a glowing testament to the group's long-standing tenacity, integrity, and unshakable musical identity. Fans will be grateful for yet another great record from the uncompromising and fiercely individual band.