Every few years, with the state of Planet Earth sinking utterly beyond satire and parody in its Nineteen Eighty-Five-on-steroids ruination, a certain collective pauses to pass scathing comment upon it. This acidic dissent comes courtesy of Messrs Jaz Coleman, Martin ‘Youth’ Glover, Geordie Walker and Big Paul Ferguson, trading unclassifiable apocalyptic disco-metal as the legendary and influential Killing Joke.
“Living outside of the grid is our goal! Misery lies at the heart of control,” blares Coleman, resuming duties as messenger from the atomic wasteland in Autonomous Zone. Killing Joke’s ideals are everlastingly precious and increasingly sensible, and are more often than not wielded as a bludgeoning device with which to beat some sense and worldly awareness into the listener.
And bludgeon, they certainly do: Ferguson commands a legion of skin-thwacking undercurrents that piercingly punctuates each nuclear missive, driven by Youth’s submarine bass. Guitarist Geordie Walker’s unique stringsmanship, an integral part of the Killing Joke sound since its inception, acutely divides his time between blunt-force-trauma riffing and wonderfully bleak soundscapes, matching Coleman’s frustrated railings against mankind’s descent.
Their knack for an immediately discernible and danceable tune is gratifyingly present and correct, with Euphoria and New Cold War proudly representing the band’s fearless forays past the punk label in a time-honoured willingness to explore other avenues and nuke them.
Their primal ferocity is entirely compounded, aided and abetted by the same slickness that so enriched predecessor album MMXII. This production sheen may lend a slight cleanliness to the sound, but it in no way distils the message, like a celebrated film director employing modern touches to realise the artistic vision with greater clarity.
As is to be expected of such a self-aware and consistently thoughtful act like the ‘Joke, the persistent question of mortality pervades (see also: Iron Maiden). Big Buzz also expertly treads between joyous anthem and teary emotion-trigger. A sense of celebration is one of their several alluring aspects, and this track harks back to the likes of On All Hallow’s Eve, Honour the Fire and even Gratitude, where the doomishness is countered by Killing Joke’s great sense of occasion: the self-styled Gathering.
In another parallel to Iron Maiden, they present their first double-disc studio effort. The second ‘half’ of Pylon while feeling slightly like a tugboat trailing behind a battleship, still packs in four righteously furious pieces. It oddly ends with a remix of Snakedance, the original being curiously absent from the album. This prevents Pylon from sharing the sense of end-to-end completeness that MMXII had. Yet, Pylon has the key advantage of the expansiveness of double albums, and an abundance of such searingly strong music is not to be complained about.
With this, their fifteenth half-spat-half-sung commentary on a world continuing to circle the drain, Killing Joke have proven once again, that the last laugh is theirs. is the mutated flower that grows through irradiated concrete: glimpses of ironic beauty in a diseased, dying landscape.
Review: James Stokes (@jhstokesjourno)
Pylon was released on October 23rd via Spinefarm Records.