Killing Joke


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.

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