(From the Village Voice, New York weekly, 23 May 2006.)
Killing Joke: Hosannas From the Basement of Hell
by Anthony Mariana
By transmitting Hosannas From the Basements of Hell, some proud
products of the industrial revolution (of 1979) valiantly set the roof, the
roof, the roof on fire. Destroyed in Killing Joke's disco-metal inferno is the
same irony curtain that obscured the band and similar doomsayers in the roaring
'90s. Yet despite frequent references to these times as the new Dark Ages, an
overall ominous timbre, and the dorky lyric "Orwellian, Machiavellian, Hegelian
dialectic world management," nary an electric eye in the sky knowingly winks.
Evidently, as Picasso's Guernica spreads beyond the frame and across the globe,
electro-Euro-thrash no longer reflexively trips the light sarcastic.
Backed by two longtime contributors and co-founder–guitarist Geordie Walker, original frontman Jaz Coleman happily assumes the role of spiritual drill sergeant here. Your first step off the turnip truck is into his gaping mouth, an instrument that, unlike the average suburban Satanist's, never sinks into gravelly incoherence but steadily rings loud and clear. Similarly, almost every song belabors a simple, effective groove—perhaps for that working-class-friendly assembly-line feel, though more likely to generate dancefloor transcendence. The quartet takes a long ride on the quicksilver chug that both offsets the title track's haunting blues bounce and fuels the melodic avalanche of "Implosion." The delicate, snappy beat that drags Walker's clanging ax in circles on "The Lightbringer" (a paean to "the rebellious spirit in you and me") gets toughened up by choppy, shimmery atmospherics on "Gratitude." Three-note jams extend both tunes.
Sprawling across the expanse of the disc is a single indigo synth line. The resultant epic mood furnishes Coleman's rants with the significance of profundity they sorely lack. We all know the barbarians are no longer merely at the gates, Jaz. Authorizing illegal wars, conspicuously consuming and rewriting sacred texts, homeboys have been chillin' in the TV room for a while now.