(From the Dallas Music Guide, 14 July 2003.)

Killing Joke

Like a ghost from the past, Killing Joke is the thorn in the mind that won’t stay dead. Always a torch bearer for the downtrodden, politically inept and the hostile everyman, led by guitarist extraordinaire Geordie and vocalist/finger pointer Jaz Coleman, along with original bassist and producer Youth, have laid down a bombastic ideal that rests alongside their classics What? and Revelations in it’s power and raw emotional delivery. And oh yeah, none other than utility man #1 Dave Grohl is the drummer for this titanic trio. Though not as evident as his skins work on the latest Q.O.T.S.A. record, you know it’s Grohl by his timing and fills alone. But what sets apart his work here from his other projects is his regard for finesse. One part Stewart Copeland, one part Danny Carey and a whole lotta John Bonham and you can see where this is going. Grohl is a noted Killing Joke fan and jumped at the chance to fill Martin Atkins’ seat for this record, though it’s quite odd that it really hasn’t really been mentioned elsewhere. Nonetheless, Killing Joke has dispersed with the overuse of keyboards that smothered Democracy and have gone back to basics as Grohl’s floor tom work rides underneath Geordie’s wide-open tones. There’s not a lot of “throb throb” here as the pace is fast and furious as a track like “Asteroid” is all quick beats and down-stroking as Coleman switches between talk and cheese grater vocal slaughter. “Implant” has a slight keyboard hum working alongside Grohl’s rapid-fire snare and Youth’s rolling bass line as Geordie reminds the listener why he is still the reigning king of the Gothic metal guitar and has been swiped by the likes of Billy Duffy and his ilk for years now. Coleman’s vocals can be off-putting at times but do convey the utmost sincerity, as his voice is the equivalent of a man’s hand slowing balling up into a fist. It’s all explosion and retraction, attack and fall back.

Killing Joke is comparable to Tool’s Aenima in its ambitious plan to infect our senses with the knowledge our own impending doom; man is killing himself but does nothing to stop the proceedings, be it thru chemical poisoning, political corruption, ignorance or environmental destruction. This isn’t a warning, a wake up call or a scare tactic; it is our obituary and fear not because there is no escape. Brilliant in its pacing and volcanic in its condensed power, this fucker would rock as a live entity. Grohl masks Atkins heavy tribal beats spot on for “You”ll Never Get To Me” as Coleman leads a huge sounding chorus parlaying his “depths of hell” hoarseness into a bludgeoning anthem about self-pity and destruction. “Seeing Red” is The Pixies with a bigger set of balls and a better guitarist as the 4/4 beat is just driven into the ground by Grohl’s snare work and Geordie’s drill press riffs. The closer “The House That Pain Built” is prime Killing Joke as a mid-paced tribal beat just about settles uncomfortably into your brain, then bam! The speed goes up tenfold as the guitar just feels like a sheet metal against your fillings and Coleman’s venomous pissings just pour thru his skin. Give this man a podium, a clergy’s collar and a Sunday morning and thou shall see the light.

Though regarded as a punk band when they started in 1979, Killing Joke soon separated from the pack finding its zone within the metallic underground but within reach of the grand sound of early U2. But unlike U2 who seems as though their intentions can change with the prevailing winds, Killing Joke has always been the unyielding bastard of a government gone wrong. Though worshipped by the likes of Metallica, Guns and Roses and Nirvana, aside from their mid-decadent decade rant “Eighties”, Killing Joke never has found success in the States, due mainly to the fact that Americans can relate to their socialist and anarchistic howlings. Realistically Killing Joke is not about to open any new doors commercially for the band, but at least with the contribution of Grohl will garner some heavy press which in turn could give them the exposure and profile needed in order to introduce them to a whole new generation raised on Rage Against The Machine, System Of A Down and the aforementioned Tool who owe great amounts to Killing Joke for their foundations. Without Killing Joke, the nature of heavy rocking social commentary would be without its true spokesmen. Though not their best work, that still goes to Fire Dances, Killing Joke have provided an adrenaline shot to the nerve of  thinking man’s metal music.

-- Justin Press

Rating: 8 out of 10