(From CD Times, 29 March 2006.)
Killing Joke: Hosannas From the Basement of Hell
by Simon Rueben
Since their formation some 25 years ago, Killing Joke have
been a major influence on the heavy rock scene, inspiring artists such as
Soundgarden and Nirvana. Original drummer "Big Paul" Ferguson once described
their music as "the sound of the earth vomiting". Originally founded round
Ferguson, Jaz Coleman, guitarist Geordie Walker and Martin "Youth" Glover, they
released a string of albums in the eighties and nineties, receiving a lifetime
achievement award from Kerrang! in 2005. The line-up has changed over the years,
but whilst Youth now has a useful little sideline in producing, Coleman, Walker
and bassist Paul Raven are still making powerful music.
This album sees Jaz Coleman's compositions performed heavier than ever, and is an extraordinary assault to the eardrums, a relentless pounding of Wagneresque velocity. In the drumstool this time round is Ben Calvert, but other than that, this is practically the original line-up. Much of the album was recorded in a basement studio in Prague, mixed by Mark Lusardi using old tape echo machines that dated back to the late 1970's. The final mix-down on radio speakers gives this a very old fashioned metal sound - dark, shadowed in distortion, and utterly fantastic. The music sounds almost viscous - thick with an industrial heaviness, making the experience of listening almost arduous. The sound is reminiscent of Ministry, the rich orchestrations bringing to mind Led Zeppelin at their most fruity.
The defining track on this album is "Invocation", which is a staggering piece of music - a relentless pounding riff of darkness, so powerful and heavy that it just leaves you drained. It leads into "Implosion", which is almost punk rock, fantastically exciting with a huge drum sound. This album never lets up - it grinds and bores into your mind, slabs of metal crashing out of your speakers.
"Walking With Gods" is a lengthy piece of music, with a repeated riff that seems never ending, slavishly repeating itself amid Colemanís arrangements. "Majestic" is a real speaker buster - it gets more and more distorted as it goes, the vocal lost in a sea of guitar. Its almost like standing next to a musical roadworks, drills and beats smashing into your ears. Closing track "Gratitude" slows the tempo a notch, but is still a beast of a track, a huge sound that refuses to let up until the very end. When this record finishes, the room seems very quiet.
Did I mention that this album was heavy? It may be too heavy for some, but I thought it was fantastic, the retro charm of the recording not getting in the way of the fact that there is some wonderful music here, that needs to be played a earbleedingly loud volumes. A great record from real masters of the art; an album that comes highly recommended.