(From Mean Street, "Southern California's No. 1 Music Magazine" [possibly because it's free], December 2003.)

Killing Joke

Classic pseudo-metal warlords prepare for their biggest battle

by Peter Atkinson

For someone as seemingly freaked out by the prospect of the apocalypse as Killing Joke's enigmatic frontman Jaz Coleman - he fled England in the early '80s to hunker down in Iceland, then escaped to the nuclear-free relative isolation of New Zealand - he's sure not shy about singing about it.

The band's self-titled 11th album, and first since 1996, is rife with diatribes about war and death and doomy prophesizing about the end of the world - either by our own hand or by cleansing fire from the sky - on tracks like "Total Invasion," "Asteroid," "Seeing Red" and a fittingly conclusive remake of "Wardance."

"I'd say the time is right, wouldn't you? War is everywhere; we are teetering more precariously on the edge of annihilation than ever before," Coleman notes. "This is the kind of music we need now, to shake people up, wake people up. Or we can really kiss our asses goodbye.

"We have always operated under the premise of not just utilizing music as a pleasure principle that you put on after a hard day at the office. The idea was that music had a much greater social function than that. That's why Killing Joke is here, to tell it like it is."

Coleman spoke as the band - including original members Geordie, Youth and Paul Raven - was finishing up its first US tour in nearly a decade last month with dates in LA and San Diego - where, between the wildfires, and freak downpours and hailstorms, it looked like armageddon may already be well underway.

"Strange days 'round here, strange days indeed," he said.

The tour, Coleman reports, has gone well and after some understandable initial rustiness, with each show, the band has grown tighter, more lethal and - after poking through some reviews on the Web - louder. Just as turmoil and conflict inspire much of Coleman's lyrics, so too do they drive Killing Joke's music. And with the band now operating at a full head of steam, duck and cover.

"It's constant war with Killing Joke, every day is constant war. We clash gloriously, and that's way we make this sort of sound," he said.

That "sort of sound" - with its turbulent rhythms, crashing, jagged riffs and foreboding tone - has inspired a veritable Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame wing's worth of bands during Killing Joke's tumultuous 25-year career. Any industrial-metal act that pooh-poohs Killing Joke as an influence is full of shit. Add Metallica, Deftones, Tool and many post-punk bands to that list. And, of course, Nirvana, who borrowed so liberally from Killing Joke's "Eighties" on "Come As You Are" that they ended up getting sued. Kurt Cobain's death essentially put an ending to any legalities and, given that Dave Grohl provided all of the drums for Killing Joke's new album, what hard feelings there were have long since passed.

"Some people are calling it his [Grohl's] community service," Coleman said, laughing. "But he's really just a good guy who's a fan of the band, and who had said he'd like to work with the band and somehow things worked out so he could. It's another of the delicious ironies that always seem to come up with Killing Joke."

on the web:  www.killingjoke.com