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Killing Joke
MMXII Mick Middles , April 17th, 2012 09:26

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Dense forest, dark threatening shadows and the heaviest of missives. Indeed, as the title nods to the on-rushing apocalypse, and even if one takes serious note of such a prophecy, it is still warming to discover that, in the final year of man's painful plight, Killing Joke are still making the kind of record that my partner referred to as "Stormin'."

Not bad, as a one word review. For this is the stormiest album I have heard in many a year and one which builds nicely on the band's 2010 outing, Absolute Dissent. Now the band are four years into their 'original line-up' and moving into a gear that was barely hinted at thirty years ago as they emerged somewhat bloody and battered from the post punk fall-out. Indeed, there might still be an element of mistrust among those who cite PIL, The Pop Group and Joy Division among their all-time faves. This remains unfortunate and is arguably not helped at all by the band tagging onto the touring bill beneath lesser acts such as The Mission and The Cult.

This record should silence any remaining doubters. It is as if a giant magnifying glass has been held shakily over the key elements of the band's time honoured sound, teasing them out of the delicious murk. A pounding hypnotic and all-encompassing wave of noise that crashes the senses. Yes, you can swim happily here and there lies the key. For all its doom-laden prophecies, this is music that gladdens the heart.

It does so right from the start. The stunning opener, 'Pole Shift' offers a Zeppelin-esque intensity that sent me flicking through the racks in search of Physical Graffiti. It really is on that level, too, with Coleman's vice surging from mellow drone to deathly scream in an instant. Behind him the pounding ebbs and flows and, five minutes in, cranks to a halt like a rusty combine harvester before punching back to life. The lyrical message is somewhat unsettling, to say the least. "Hand in hand we march into the unknown…" screams Coleman, seemingly lost in the adrenalin rush of global destruction.

And if that was all this album offered, then Killing Joke would have justified their continuing existence. But MMX11 is unexpectedly loaded with similarly bomb-laden gems. 'Fema Camp; which follows – although one does begin to wonder if ANYTHING will follow – tells of American death camps and arrives complete with spine-chilling riffs which crash again and again against that relentless disarming percussive thrust. Even so, what an accessible ride this proves to be. All you want to do is hang on until the end. There is even a startling reference to the period when Simple Minds held their integrity aloft in 'In Cytheria' while 'Colony Collapse' offers, arguably, the albums most identifiably Killing Joke moment, with it's synth powered anthemic charm and, better still, 'Rapture' is pure Rammstein…in a good way.

Whether you share Coleman's vision or not doesn't seem to matter. No one can doubt that we live in times of dark mystery and the shifting of the physical and political axis. A time of crash and rebirth, which is maybe why it all seems so rewarding. The backdrop to Killing Joke is now a world of blackness and uncertainly. Never have the seemed so effortlessly poignant. Stormin', indeed.

Emmanuel Gasparinatos
Apr 17, 2012 2:52pm

Cool. Will check it out. Named my first (short lived) post punk band in Sydney (1979) after a track off their 1st EP. Nervous System. ("the sky is turning red". Indeed)

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rollo
Apr 17, 2012 3:33pm

dare I say an excellent gothic album,nicely balanced,atmospheric,intense,eerie... with no filler in it.

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Post-Punk Monk
Apr 17, 2012 4:23pm

Good to hear The Joke are still shining brightly in this monochrome world. I'll need to buy this. How I wish I could revisit the amazing US tour in 1989 when instead of the expected "Outside The Gate" show we got great swaths of the still unreleased "Extremities, Dirt, And Various Repressed Emotions!" The stage had a -lit brazier- on it! Not in these times!

http://postpunkmonk.wordpress.com

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Thomas
Apr 17, 2012 9:10pm

A great album, it's taking me a while to absorb as I still reckon Absolute Dissent is something of a pinnacle, but a great review this is of a great album. It definitely does give hope despite it's dark and heavy themes.

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lodger
Apr 17, 2012 9:42pm

Fantastic album, it should show the way to many...

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Tom Kauko
Apr 18, 2012 2:12am

As a longtime fan, it is difficult not to use superlatives of this masterpiece. Already Absolute Dissent was in my view their best album ever, but even there I did not like all songs. Here I do. There is no group like these jokesters - although bands such as the Swans and the Fall (and I suppose Sisters of Mercy and the Jesus Lizard in their day) come close. To be able to show this amount of wisdom, energy, creativity, variety and - above all: class!

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bar har
Apr 18, 2012 8:11am

'A pounding hypnotic and all-encompassing wave of noise that crashes the senses'- Perfect description, which also hits the nail on head for the recent Roundhouse concert. The dodgy acoustics might even have added to the electrical storm atmosphere. There was none of the 'here's a new one' embarrassment, as this is the only group I know to reform with material as good and sometimes better than the early stuff. 'Rapture' was utterly immense. The interweaving of old and new was seamless, and so the emotional encore of 'Requiem', 'Wardance', and 'Love Like Blood' was a guilt-free indulgence. Hope they get the reception they deserve on the 80s gothstalgia arena circuit- sounds awful, but we've all got to make a living.

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SJY
Apr 18, 2012 9:33am

Come on, it's not as good as the old stuff. Unless you like heavy metal.

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lh
Apr 18, 2012 7:49pm

Luckily, many of us adore heavy metal - a genre that would be completely different without the influence of the incomparable Killing Joke.

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Apr 19, 2012 9:35am

In reply to SJY:

how uninformed you must be...they are heavy for almost last half of their working period and even since their early beginning, in some way...you were probably listening some other band before ...

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SJY
Apr 19, 2012 10:09am

In reply to :

Yeah, listening to some other band, right. Of course I like "heavy" - but I think in particular Geordie has been reduced to thrashing out full-on power chords rather than employing the phenomenal, innovative and distinctive guitar technique of earlier albums. Likewise with Coleman's keyboards are now more or less relegated to synthesised digital 'big' string parts these days rather than the terror inducing and beautiful analogue sounds of Requiem or Unspeakable. And the vocals are a lot less subtle, to put it mildly. In MY opinion, they peaked with Night Time and fell away creatively pretty swiftly at that point.I guess I love the 'post punk' sound and I don't like Industrial Metal which is probably a better description than 'Heavy Metal'.... for all you pedants out there. Still, In Cythera is fantastic and I'm massively looking forward to seeing them in September.

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FON
Apr 19, 2012 8:56pm

Wow, look at the cover (and title) of Killing Joke's new cheese-fest. It's an exercise in ironic camp, right? Sadly, probably not from this tawdry crew. One could never expect heightened aesthetic sensibilities from a bunch of thick creeps who used to dribble on in interviews about ubermenschen and that lovely General Pinochet. Their music was just as charmless - check out 'Europe', for instance. In short: scared, ugly music for scared, ugly minds. Is it any coincidence that the online 'community' stormfront.org (aka virtual day centre for 'white nationalists') are such fans? FON

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John Doran
Apr 19, 2012 10:49pm

In reply to FON:

Yeah that's right. Stormfront are fucking mad for a band with an Asian singer and a black keyboard player.

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bar har
Apr 20, 2012 10:43am

In reply to FON:

Sorry, but KJ are not fascists. They certainly play fast and loose with the romance of the apocalyptic visionary and the sublime meeting of mass and man, but the aesthetic is about 'alienation by experimentation', i.e. anarchistic individualism, rather than uniform society governed by a dictator. It's Nietzschean if anything (the ubermensch was originally an artist, as was Zarathustra), and is weirdly reminiscent of the machine fascinations of German Expressionists like Ersnt Toller and Ludwig Meidner. I can't find any suggestion the Coleman- a mixed race man- believes in white supremacy, nationalism, or fascism in any respect. If the NME tried to catch him out as part of their tediously self-righteous liberal filtering of culture (i'm speaking from a left position here, btw) then they were more successful with the more naive Crispin Mills. Coleman has always pressed their buttons by citing Speer and Wagner as heroes. His choice of Gadaffi is indeed rum but was attributable to his generic anti-Americanism than the cult of the leader. To be honest, those early interviews reveal an articulate acid casualty with a unique if tangential grasp on reality and an esoteric library. These days he sounds like an amiable loony with an unexpected sentimental streak, and regardless of the quality of the music (which I love) or the silliness of the looming apocalypse theory (i hope) he cannot be blamed for the band's small following amongst some neo-nazi cretins.

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timtheteeth
Apr 20, 2012 3:52pm

In reply to FON:

Some interesting comments here - some ugly ones. As a long term fan of KJ I have to admit that I'm always delighted to hear of new material, disappointed on it's arrival before finally appreciating it in the end. As far as I am concerned, it would impossible for them to match the heights of, say, Song & Dance or Chapter 3... I could go on (at great length believe me!) so what I end up loving about each new work never quite matches up to what I really want to hear. For me, Paul isn't as inventive as he once was, Jaz not as thought provoking - Youth's bass not as rythmical - and I'm not going to knock Geordie because he is a genius. Overall new KJ sounds stodgy to me, more of an assault than tribal simplicity. I apprciate it in the end - and you can't beat the healing power of a Gathering to celebrate new material with a good bounce. Come along FON - see if you can find any white nationalists!

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Apr 21, 2012 11:34am

In reply to timtheteeth:

The album is absolutely magic, as I've only recently come to realize is Absolute Dissent. It's obviously not as good as the first one, but how could it be, that's one of THE best albums ever. Their recent show in Glasgow was amazingly powerful and even tho a power cut meant that we heard all the new songs but missed the last 40 odd minutes where they would have played the classics it was still utterly magnificent. How many bands over 30 years from their inception could you say that about ?

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sean hensford
Apr 22, 2012 6:31pm

In reply to :

Every time a new K J album comes out i look forward to it like a child
i bought the first album in aged 13 and still love this band to bits they are one of the few bands around who still can surprise you i saw them earlier in the year and was still blown away like it was 1979
i recommend this album to anyone who listens to boring MOR bands to blow your socks and ears off!!!

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Bob
May 29, 2012 8:59pm

In reply to FON:

Recently activist Peter Tatchell and Gay Star News accused Killing Joke of being homophobic and anti-zionist, which generated a load of publicity for the group's new MMXII album.
In the mid-1980s Zig Zag and Melody Maker music magazines interviewed Killing Joke, and quoted band members as making alleged pro-fascist, anti-black and anti-homosexual comments.
KJ's lead singer Jeremy 'Jaz' Coleman is part-English and part-high caste Indian.
Not all fascists are white nationalists. For example, in India there is the neo-fascist Shiv Sena party, whose leader admires Hitler.

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TheBoz666
Nov 11, 2012 3:42pm

In reply to Tom Kauko:

Love that you mentioned Swans and The Fall, two of my favs also. Have to also put in Opeth, New Model Army, Agalloch, Porcupine Tee, and Sonic Youth in to the mix among many others. I'm definitely going to buy this album.

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Soundgardener
Jul 9, 2014 8:20am

Killing Joke - the Guvnors.

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