(From the Record, based in Kitchener, Ontario, 24 October 1994.)
Killing Joke Rejuvenated and Touring
by Neil Davidson
Joke are back on the road. Can the apocalypse be far behind? Well not
necessarily. It seems the hard-edged industrial rock trio isn't quite as
doomsday-oriented as it was more than a decade ago -- singing songs such as
Bloodsport and War Dance.
Things were so bad, in fact, two members of the band upped and moved to Iceland.
Reformed and apparently rejuvenated, Killing Joke kick off a North American tour with shows in Toronto tonight and Montreal on Tuesday.
Original bassist Youth (Martin Glover) is back in the fold, marking the first time the original lineup has toured in 12 years. That includes singer-keyboardist Jaz Coleman and guitarist Geordie (who goes by just the one name).
The new album Pandemonium -- their first since 1990 -- still rocks like a steamhammer, but this time with a hint of something positive.
"I think there's an amount of optimism in there, yeah, definitely," Youth said recently from the band's rehearsal studio in London, England.
So while on songs such as Millenium, Killing Joke notes "Extinction seems to be a plausible risk," Coleman says later in the song: "Yes, I believe that we can turn it around."
Still, the band sings about chaos, guilt, pain, AIDS and cruelty -- not to mention barbed hooks penetrating flesh.
Whatever the lyrical content, Pandemonium screams out to be played at high volume.
Millenium, by far the best song, pounds like a pulsating vein.
And the heavy bass runs throughout the album, leaving an indelible mark like centuries of water cutting through rock.
"All I can say is it sound primordal," Youth said of Killing Joke's powerful brand of music. "It sounds like it's out of another time altogether."
And it's a sound that has found a lot of fans, albeit years later. Bands such as Ministry and Nine Inch Nails have made this dark, relentless industrial-type music their own.
"I don't think 'oh I was there first.' I don't see it competitively," Youth said. "I get a certain amount of fulfilment when I read other bands giving us acknowledgements and finding our music and what I did in the past some way influential, encouraging to them and their own."
Youth, 33, left the band in 1982 to pursue a successful career as a producer and mixer. The band continued on in fits and starts, with Youth returning in 1992.
"I bumped into them at a studio and then I saw a gig," he explained. "I saw a bit of potential there and I thought it would be good fun, more than anything. And a challenge and all that.
"So I put the idea to the other guys and they were up for it."
Pandemonium was recorded around the world -- in New Zealand, where Coleman now makes his home, in London (Youth's home base) and in Egypt where they recorded in the King's Chamber of the Great Pyramid. The current tour will take the band across North America and Europe. After that, Youth isn't sure.
"With this band, anything can happen."
Asked about the trio's reputed creative tension, Youth laughed and replied: "Yeah we create a lot of tension and we let it explode. And that's it."
A look at the discography of veteran British rockers Killing Joke:
Killing Joke -- 1980
What's This For -- 1981
Revelations -- 1982
Ha! -- 1982 (Live EP recorded in Toronto)
Fire Dances -- 1983
Night Time -- 1985
Brighter Than a Thousand Suns -- 1986
Outside the Gate -- 1988
Extremities, Dirt and Various Repressed Emotions -- 1990
Pandemonium -- 1994
The Courtald Talks -- 1989 (spoken word set)
An Incomplete Collection -- 1990 (boxed set of first five albums)