(From the Ottawa Sun, 10 August 2003.)


Killing Joke


by Darryl Sterdan



Killing Joke aren't kidding around this time.

Not that they really have been up until now. If anything, these post-apocalyptic post-punkers led by doom-prophet vocalist Jaz Coleman have been one of music's darkest horses ever since they crawled up out of the muck back in the early '80s with their turgid mix of shuddering tribal drums, chugging guitars and threatening vocals.

But on their stunning self-titled comeback album -- their first studio disc in seven long years -- the Jokers have risen to the challenge and out-menaced even themselves. And in the process, they've delivered one of the most monstrous, malignant and magnificent discs of their long and illustrious career.

Virtually every element of the 55-minute Killing Joke is flawlessly planned and executed. Start with the lineup, which includes all the integral members -- Coleman, guitarist Geordie, bassist Youth and his successor Raven -- joined by all-star drummer Dave Grohl. Then there's the music: Nearly every track is a massive, swaggering slab of bruising gothic-industrial metal that attacks the listener, grabbing you by the lapels and dragging you along for the duration.

Grohl's relentless sledgehammer beats anchor these 10 tracks, from the slinky Middle Eastern groove of The Death and Resurrection Show to the industrial wallop of Asteroid. Geordie's blistering guitars, meanwhile, are the engine that drive the machine, whether he's yanking out creepy licks on Blood on Your Hands or carving out giant chunks of metallic rock riffage on The House That Pain Built. And Coleman's intense Jekyll-and-Hyde vocals are, of course, the diseased brain that brings the whole beast to life, moving from homicidal knife-at-your-throat whisper to a creepy paranoid croon to a berserk, gasoline-gargling guttural roar with alarming ease.

The final pieces of the puzzle are the lyrics: Song after song fuelled by and filled with dire prophecies, sinister imprecations, and fierce, spleen-venting indictments of George Dubya's corrupt, corporate-run America and immoral, war-on-terror imperialism.

"We want your oil, we want your land," Coleman bellows over the grim, chugging grind of Total Invasion, one of several cuts that focus on the latest Gulf War. "It's a f--ing crusade/A lesson in trade."

If Lemmy suddenly got political and decided to front Ministry in their prime, this is what it would sound like.

And if it were heavy enough and scary enough, it would be what Killing Joke is -- the comeback album of the year. No kidding.