ALBUM REVIEW: Killing Joke | The Singles Collection 1979-2012

ds album reviews

by Chris Familton

square-600Rating8Killing Joke rose from the ashes and were one of the few acts that greeted the dawn of the 80s and post-punk with such an intense and heavy sound. They used the loosening of scenes and genres to embrace everything they heard around them – from disco to metal, new wave to goth – in the process creating a truly unique sound that would continue to evolve over the next three decades.

Often their mercurial and messianic frontman Jaz Coleman has stolen the limelight in a band where all the elements were crucial to the success of the group and indeed enabled them to cast such a wide musical net. Their first two singles a case in point with the agit dub-funk of Nervous System and the more reliably punk Wardance. From there it was open slather with Requiem most strongly pointing the direction they would head with slower, more defined time signatures, chugging guitars and Coleman delivering his ‘satan in the pulpit’ vocal sermons. By the mid 80s a discernible dance influence entered the fray on seminal tracks like Love Like Blood, their highest charting UK single, signaling a golden period with the albums Night Time and Brighter Than A Thousand Suns. It would be another eight years before they regained their peak form with the excellent Pandemonium album, represented here by the epic reach of Millennium and the title track’s metallic industrial crunch.

Listening to thirty three tracks in a row is an ambitious and tiring task but when cherry picked for its highlights this definitive collection shows the diversity and belief the band have always had in their dark and primal rock music.

this review was first published in The Drum Media

LIVE REVIEW: Killing Joke @ Metro Theatre, Sydney (08/06/13)

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by Chris Familton

Support acts can sometimes be a lottery. Will they be selected based on a musical similarity to the headliner or a subtle genre variation still with some stylistic connection to them? Will they be a band riding a current radio playlist/bloggers wave or a historical antecedent, forebears of the headliners who are possibly playing at their behest? In the case the band selected to open for Killing Joke were little known Graveyard Rockstars who looked like extras dragged up from a zombie flick with their ghoulish face and body paint that looked like a smeared mix of blood and dirt, regulation rockstar haircuts and black attire. Unfortunately their music didn’t match the diligent creativity of their look, coming off as second rate angst metal that pummeled with turgid verses and soaring melodic choruses. It was standard stuff and though they could all play and sing well it lacked spark and anything to raise it above the plethora of generic emotive hard rock.

Killing Joke on the other hand almost single handedly created industrial metal from the ashes of punk and the creative possibilities of post-punk. Over the decades they’ve evolved from jerky tribal art-pop, through dalliances with synthesizers and into the dark abyss of churning demonic rock music. Through dry ice the band emerged and boldly opened proceedings with one of their best known songs, the epic sweep of Requiem. It sounded gloriously widescreen with Jaz Coleman instantly locked into that piercing thousand yard stare and stance that gave the impression he was physically channeling a fair amount of the electricity that was in the room.

Billed as their singles tour, this meant that there was going to be hefty serving of songs which sat the highest in the ears of the public and from all corners of their thirty plus year career yet they did well to cover many bases and not just the obvious tracks. Early singles like Wardance showcased the primal, tribal side of their sound while the mid set highlight Eighties was a nod to the electronic dance influence on the band as the doom disco song sent waves of taut, shuddering energy through the crowd.

Guitarist Geordie Walker was the magician, weaving and coaxing those trademark chords and riffs from his guitar and seemingly never pausing to change instruments or indulge us in the finer details of tuning. His playing seemed effortless yet wholly visceral and on edge. Bassist Youth seemed, on the surface, to be having the most amount of fun, bouncing on his heels, grinning and digging notes deep out of the rhythms of the music. The conductor of all of this was of course Coleman who switched between ‘centre of the storm’ concentration and power and a shaking, dancing shaman; urging the masses to rise up and give themselves over to the music.

Pandemonium, Madness, Corporate Elect, European Super State and Pssyche were just some highlights among many and though the set started to feel a little more like hard work in the latter part this was still an impressive show of strength from a band who are still creating new music built on the central tenets of their sonic manifesto and delivering it onstage with intensity, energy and belief.