By Killing Joke
6 out of 5
Born in Notting Hill in 1978, inspired by the bullshittery of Thatcher-era England and the threat of the atomic age, and forged in both the fires of punk rebellion and the molten O.G. heavy metal lava, Killing Joke spewed that out in a post-punk sound like no other band ever has, before or since.
Killing Joke are: Jaz Coleman on vocals, Kevin "Geordie" Walker on guitars, Martin "Youth" Glover on bass, "Big Paul" Ferguson on drums, and Reza Uhdin on keyboards.
They inspired almost everything I grew up listening to, and almost everything I currently listen to. Metallica, Nine Inch Nails, Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Faith No More, Tool... I mean, I could keep going, but you get the picture. All of these guys loved the shit out of Killing Joke, some to point of idolization (Dave Grohl, for instance, who famously played drums on their 2003 self-titled comeback as a favor because he felt guilty that he and Kurt Cobain had accidentally ripped off Killing Joke's "Eighties" for the song "Come as You Are." Side note, Killing Joke dropped their lawsuit over that when Cobain died, out of respect for his family). Without Killing Joke, I probably wouldn't be the same person I am, because most of my influences wouldn't be the same.
Anyway, Killing Joke has been around long enough to have made an impact on music (and make an impact on comic books, which I'm quick to point out to all my Batman-lovin' friends), even if they're too abrasive to ever become full-on mainstream themselves. Being highly respected and inspiring is enough, though, I think.
On PYLON, their 16th studio album, the band sounds more more pissed off and more apocalyptic than they've ever sounded. If you know the band, then you'll know how bold a statement that is. If you don't them, then all you need do is take a listen.
I constantly, throughout the almost 56 minute run-time of the ten tracks, kept exclaiming aloud such thoughts as "Holy shit!" and "Are you fucking kidding me with that riff?!" and "Fucking hell that's awesome!" I know, pretty deep stuff.
But, while lyrically Coleman and co. are cerebral as all get out (mixing politics and anti-establishment furor with occult and spiritual leanings and a sort of tribal mentality), musically Killing Joke are to be experienced, felt, absorbed into the blood stream to fuel the fire in your belly and harden your heart a bit so you'll want to rise up as one and join some sort of revolution.
I was gonna do a track-by-track analysis like I sometimes do for album reviews, but seeing as how Killing Joke is also a band where albums take on a more classic feel - with the songs flowing one into another and creating a single full-steam-ahead emotional roller coaster, instead of more modern albums that are simply a collection of tracks or singles - I decided against it. Some of the derision that the band and their albums, including this one, receive comes from the fact that they "sound the same." First of all, I don't agree with that statement - at all. Secondly, addressing what that statement is meant to imply, I think that music artists that sound like themselves without repeating themselves are the best sort of music artists.
I will, however, mention a few tracks to check out:
"Dawn of the Hive"
"New Cold War"
All three of these are some of the best songs Killing Joke has ever recorded, and should be played as loudly as possible and listened to as many times as possible. They are not just masterpieces of sonic-chaos - and of the beauty that miraculously can be found within that chaos - they are supreme and sublime examples of what the art of music can be. I have not the words to describe how much I love just the things on the surface that I've absorbed on my initial listens. If you're new to Killing Joke, I can see how these might seem at first to be "hard rock / industrial-rock songs" and no more, but there's something brilliant going on here that - much like trying to understand with any sort of completeness what's going through the mind of Stanley Kubrick or David Lynch when they create their best work - I don't think I can fully wrap my head around everything these guys are doing here. I'm just not musically smart enough.
I will point out, lastly, that I purchased the Limited Deluxe Edition, which features a second disc of five songs cut off the album (these five songs run 33 minutes, by the way, so it's almost like another album). Each of these songs is, surprisingly, just as amazing as everything that made the cut. Maybe they don't fit in as well, (as I said Killing Joke's albums flow as albums, so maybe these tracks just didn't fit into that flow for some reason), but they are actually pretty damn awesome. The one exception might be the remix "Snakedance," since being a remix it stands out sound-wise, but even it's pretty great. At no point was I like, "Meh, I can see why this one didn't make it." No, I was still just as "Holy shit!" and "That's badass!" as I was listening to the album proper.
PYLON is one of the greatest albums Killing Joke has ever made, as well being one of the greatest albums of 2015. It's a MUST-OWN for anyone that listens to music that means something, for anyone who wants more out of their music than just background fodder to which you can drink your latte at the mall. This is music to re-charge your internal batteries to, to turn some screw in your head, to light some fire under your ass. Brute-forceful in its execution, forcing you, the passive audience, to hopefully become active participants in this problematic world around you. The fans of Killing Joke are referred to as The Gathering, and if that conjures images of tribal warriors war-dancing around a raging fire deep in the woods of a primal jungle... then that's accurate. Only the fire is symbolic, the jungle is made of concrete, and the tribal symbols are actually graffiti... and in that graffiti are Killing Joke song lyrics.
- gARTh -
But, don't take my word for it...
"PYLON is some of Killing Joke's best work of their career, delivering sound and power that many bands are still trying to achieve. Take notice, the bar has been set high... We award Killing Joke's PYLON an overwhelming 10! A masterful piece of work from a legendary band!"
--- Metal Onslaught
"As the planet earth teeters on the edge of the madness that Killing Joke have sung about in their bizarrely brilliant 37 year long career the band keep on delivering the soundtrack. Where once Jaz Coleman was looked on as some kind of lunatic preacher delivering his dark sermons he now seems to be the only sane man out here."
--- Louder Than War
"The songs breathe more, moving silkily through underground tunnels spider-webbed with political graffiti. This mood of movement within a movement is the zeitgeist of rebellion, perpetrated by men whose age has given them so much more than a knee-jerk anti-establishment reaction to perceived injustices."
--- Metal Injection
"Drummer Paul Ferguson keeps a steady, motivating beat throughout, while Geordie Walker and Youth Glover chug away on riffs that could inspire a nation to overthrow its government."
--- Consquence of Sound
"PYLON doesn't sound terribly innovative within the band's body of work, but the album's widescreen sound and bone-fracturing impact leave no doubt that Killing Joke are still deeply committed to what they do, and it's genuinely remarkable that they're still sounding this furious and effective 35 years after their debut album."
"It’s beyond dispute that the fire is still burning behind Killing Joke. Willfully unpredictable and honestly angry, most of PYLON sounds like the end of civilization as we know it."
--- Screamer Magazine
"While most of the bands in the 30-40 age range are clearly running on fumes at this point, Killing Joke have given the world a new album that doesn't let up for a second. Every minute of this thing is molten, anchored by the strongest Youth/Big Paul rhythmic interplay captured on disc since Revelations. Still one of the most innovative human beings to ever pick up a guitar, Walker is the greatest hero of PYLON, delivering perhaps his most evocative performances since the days of Thatcher."
--- Joel Gausten.com
"As we fall into an era of seemingly unsolvable crises... Killing Joke are still doing their best to provide a soundscape by which to watch the world explode. With the source material of the planet Earth of 2015, it's unsurprising that PYLON is particularly potent, pissed off and primitive."
--- Drowned In Sound
"Killing Joke are the sole proprietors to an undiminished sound that manages to be anti-authoritarian and contrarian while never giving into cynicism or defeat. Perhaps the reason they never dull with time, is because the world always feels on the brink of collapse. Who else can make sense of it all? They remain the soundtrack to our discontent, and PYLON is a welcome entry into their arsenal."
--- Smells Like Infinite Sadness
"Musically expansive, it's a testament to the band that they can sound as though they are recording in a boiler room on one song to standing on top of the mountainside the next. It's a feat very few bands can pull off."
--- Vulture Hound
"In keeping with the blackened, raging apocalyptica of their post-2002 reformation output, the original line-up of Jaz Coleman, Geordie, Youth and Paul Ferguson detail the more metallic end of the Killing Joke sound with as smart an ear for a monster hook as they had in the mid-eighties..."
"Is there a badder-ass band than Killing Joke that's been actively touring since 1978? Is there a more influential band playing such vital music over 16 studio albums...? Answer: absolutely not. PYLON is sweet 16 for these 50-somethings, and honestly, it couldn't be sweeter; Killing Joke are still promoting the driving dynamics of post-punk, and still doing it better than the rest."
PYLON is now available through Spinefarm/Universal, wherever real music is sold.