(From the Washington Post, US daily, 25 October 2003.)

 Killing Joke



Most Goth rockers wear their doom and gloom like makeup -- something else to take off at the end of the night. But Killing Joke's Jaz Coleman takes the apocalypse seriously, so seriously in fact that he fled to Iceland in the early '80s to avoid it. Unfortunately the Gotterdammerung stood up Coleman, and the dejected singer slunk back to England. But you don't want to rib him about it. Legend has it the band once tied an offending journalist to a speaker, and proceeded to play a soundcheck through him.

At the Black Cat on Thursday, Killing Joke pounded out the sledgehammer rhythms that made them industrial pioneers in the early '80s. While a jowly Coleman tottered about the stage in a black cowled robe and ghoulish makeup, looking like a younger (if similarly dazed) Ozzy Osbourne, the band delivered a menacing-as-Metallica "Change," a pummeling "Kings and Queens," and a chant-like "Wardance" that had the audience cheering in recognition. While "Total Invasion" relied on some twisted vocal effects by Coleman, and the anthemic "Follow the Leaders" employed a drum machine and synths, for the most part Killing Joke kept things nasty, brutish and loud -- these guys, it is safe to assume, don't know the meaning of the word "ballad."

A certain poet once said that a certain critic had scruples; he just never let them stand in his way.

The same could be said about Killing Joke and melody. And good thing, too. There's something inspirational in the sight of hundreds of people banging their heads as one.

-- Michael Little