(From Kerrang, UK music magazine, 1 April 2006.)
Hosannas From the Basements of Hell
In the mid 80's, encircled in the UK charts by New Romantics,
mewling Aussie soap stars turned pop poppets and synth prodding dancefloor
divas, Killing Joke were routinely mocked for their none more black worldview
and their stubborn refusal to party down with the 'me me me' generation. All
that doom and gloom stuff was just so depressing, so history. But when
newspapers are full of headlines about drug test guinea pigs with exploding
heads, government sanctioned torture and married MP's hiring rent boys,
you could forgive Jaz Coleman for still seeing precious little light at the end
of the tunnel.
Halfway through the gloriously titled 'Hosannas...', an album filled with images of corruption and greed and vainglorious demagogues blindly leading mankind into the abyss, Coleman whispers 'wakey wakey' and you get a chilling realisation that the terrifying old curmudgeons might just have
been right all along. Killing Joke have, of course, no right to sound this harsh this far into their career. Back in 1980 the quartet set out to replicate 'the sound of the earth vomiting', 26 years on that mission statement still holds true. As oppressive and impressive as anythig the band
have put their name to, 'Hosannas...', their 12th studio album, is a claustrophobic barrage of noise as unrelentingly intense as the band's savage 1990 set 'Extremities, Dirt and Various Repressed Emotions'. Last time out, the presence of guest drummer Dave Grohl gave the band's second
self titled album a contemporary, cutting edge, but this is an altogether bleaker, denser, scuzzier collection.
The swirling, spiralling Eastern tinged intro to 'Invocation' aside - think Led Zepplin's 'Kashmir' recorded inside a padded S&M dungeon - this isn't a user friendly album: Geordie Walker's remorseless, atonal riffs on the grinding 'Walking With Gods' and the nine minute 'Lightbringer' will test the strongest constitutions and, buried under layers of fuzz and filth, Coleman's impassioned vocals remain an acquired taste. But there's a harsh beauty at work here, and crucially, a sense of hope.
Out of step with the world they might well be, but Killing Joke's righteous frenzy still feels horribly necessary.
FOR FANS OF: Nine Inch Nails, Ministry