(From Stylus Magazine, 14 October 2003.)

Killing Joke

Killing Joke



I’d never heard Killing Joke before this record. Not even “Eighties” or “Wardance.” So I’m sure somewhere there are rabid old skool KJ fans squatting in filthy little apartments muttering fervently to themselves about how it’s not as good as the old stuff. But they’re missing out.

I mean, Jaz Coleman sounds like a demon on “Total Invasion.” Not just demonic; he sounds like he just ate Lemmy from Motorhead. There are times (the part in “Implant” where the band stops and he just screams) when I seriously wonder about the future of his vocal chords.

Behind this, it sounds like Geordie and Youth and Raven have decided to cease worrying about separate instruments and just play the exact same thing, and their long practice has enabled them, of course, to stop and start on a dime. So there’s just this huge roaring sound, which is perfect.

And Dave Grohl, apparently a fan from way back, gets to sit in on drums. I don’t know much about technique, but Dave’s always been best at just hitting the drums in front of him as hard as he can, and then doing it again, which is what you want- and get- here.

Even better, instead of the dungeons and dragons you often find on albums that sound this impossibly heavy, you’ve got a batch of songs that are clearly not happy about current political affairs (see “They’re dropping bombs again/And they’re doing it in your name” at the beginning of “Seeing Red”). If they’re not the most coherent arguments, well, they’re rock lyrics. You’re supposed to feel angry and shout – let others write up the facts that we can then focus our anger upon.

The key exception is telling. “You’ll Never Get To Me” churns where the rest of the album flat-out destroys, and substitutes for the righteous fury of the other songs expansiveness and quiet(er) conviction. Here Coleman sings/growls of the “sweet childhood” that sustains him now, and the song itself is the heart the rest of the album, and the rest of the album’s anger, gathers around. A chance to recharge, in other words, and the best song on Killing Joke, its chorus swearing “I’ll never let you get to me” in oddly reassuring fashion.

And finally there is “The House That Pain Built,” the last song, another great chorus, but also a bit of an explanation. “And when you need catharsis/Because that’s how you’re made, you know,” is the beginning of the chorus, and it goes without saying that when you need that catharsis, you pop in Killing Joke. It’s not the most subtle or nuanced album, you can’t really dance to it, and it’s not particular clever. What it is: brutal, full of hooks, rock solid and fucking loud.

Reviewed by:
Ian Mathers