imageKilling Joke
album review

The gods of relentless are back and here they are at their most relentless.

As the planet earth teeters on the edge of the madness that Killing Joke have sung about in their bizarrely brilliant 37 year long career the band keep on delivering the soundtrack. Where once Jaz Coleman was looked on as some kind of lunatic preacher delivering his dark sermons he now seems to be the only sane man out here.

Pylon continues this theme- this is an album of madness, paranoia and personal pain but it is also an album of beauty in the maelstrom as the perfcetly sculptured noise somehow matches the singer’s curiously pure choirboy vocals. Jaz can still deliver the bug eyed sermons with that choirister from hell voice but there are also plenty of moments on this album when his voice shifts into that plaintive mode that sounds like its echoing around some huge cathedral.

This is the key to Killing Joke- they can do heavy and they can do brutal but they also can do beauty and find salvation in the darkness. When you get all the four key members into the room it brings down the voodoo like Miles Davis once did. There is a special black magik between these players and if their creative process is arcane and strange with various members joining in at various time on the creation of the songs it works perfectly.

The arcane process gives clues to how this band operates. Far from four lads aginst the world template of most bands, Killing Joke live lots of different lifetimes and lifelines. It’s this extra curricular that helps to create their unique nature. Jaz Coleman spent most of last year conducing the St Petersburg orchestra whilst Youth has become one of the world’s best known producers of pop and indie guitar bands. Yet somehow they bring this knowledge back to their main project. These unlikley strands help to bring the noise and power to this album and the three great preceding albums you can feel the dark,infernal power of their own muse that is like a 21st century equivalent of the thundercloud dynamic of the most darkest and most apocolyptic of classical music – this is not a music based on the blues but the European classical tradition and chanelled through the 4 piece guitar band template.

It helps is you have Paul Ferguson on drums – he is at his best on this album with huge, epic rolling drum parts that are like thunderclaps of Wagnerian awe. The  sheer physical presence of the band is down to his pumped up rhthyms that underpin the noise brought by Geordie and his guitar which remains one of the most distinctive sounds in rock music- abrasive and yet with a Ride of the Valkaries dissonance and swooping grandeur. Geordie can switch from those timeless chugs to a reaching for the heavens soaring break and never plays anything cliched or dull. Youth’s bass rumbles adding a dark undertow to the songs and those nagging 4 string hooklines have so long been key to the band’s sound.

And there is Jaz.

With his vision, vocals and just under the mix keyboard drones the singer’s crazed eye, high intelect preacherman gone Apocalypse Now are so central to the band’s unique hum and drang.

Songwise on Pylon we already all know I Am The Virus – it’s been knocking about on the internet as the prelude to this feast – it’s classic Joke – a naggingly catchy chug of a song with huge chorus that harks back to the old days when they first emerged into the middle of the mess of post punk battlefield. This was a time when they were one of those bands, like PiL and Joy Divison, redesigning the future from the past and reflecting the damp post punk gloom and taking the true adventurous path out of the punk wars. War On Freedom is like those kind of epic anthems they have been honing down on the past few albums but with ended melodic edge to it and one of those hammer down riffs from Geordie.

Delete is whiplash guitar riffing from Geordie and a weird apocolyptic bubbling keyboard and a dramatic infernal chord change. These songs are just  a sliver of what is, unsurprisingly, an intense work from an intense band. Pylon is yet another instalment in this engaging and strange story  and a place to get truly lost in.

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. Looking forward to hearing the album, I have ordered it through Pledge Music. Ticket arrived this morning for Killing Joke at the Ritz Manchester, with Jah Wobble support, what more can I say, Awesome……………………

  2. If you wanted to write up a historical piece on the band, why not do it in a separate article? Three quarters of this album review is spent rehashing their past, with only 2 new songs (nevermind I Am The Virus… you even acknowledge it’s old news) receiving one flimsy, vague sentence each at the very end. This reminds me of when in grade school I would try to bullshit my way through a book report about something I never read. Did you even listen to this album?

  3. Not sure what the previous commenter is raving about. This review is spot on. Understanding where Killing Joke come from, their approach and personalities is key to appreciating their work. To the fan boy above, save your rage for something worthy of it. There’s no shortage …

    • Josh, your reply has enough passive aggression for the both of us, so please take your own advice and save some for a worthy endeavor. Oh, I fully understand and appreciate the body of work of which you speak (more than you could possibly comprehend)… which further clarifies my points, and prevents this album review from being anywhere remotely near “spot on.” If you’d care to, please address how the album is reviewed in this article as it’s own entity instead of a history lesson. A review’s purpose is intended to examine the product at hand, and there is simply nothing here of any substance to describe the said product. By the way, your label of me as a raving fanboy is a compliment in the highest regard. Thank you.

  4. It is a really good album. Took me a bit of time to get fully into it. I have to say Jaz’s metallic bellow grates with me and I much prefer it when he sings or snarls. He mixes it up sp sometimes you get all three in one song ! Geordie has some great moments but I would prefer les chugging and more angular searing riffs. But love the no compromise full on approach they have never sold out .The atmospheric electronics add to the feel especially when they use dynamics and go for quieter pieces in the songs . For me it’s a 7 and half out of ten at the moment but I have grown to like more and more over this last week so that could go up as time passes !

  5. Great album which the tracks worked in seamlessly with the old classics at the Roundhouse on 6 Nov 2015. Marvellous!

  6. Look for the special edition. If the regular is brutal, the deluxe is thermonuclear blasting. From that, I’ll recommend Apotheosis, Panopticon & Snakedance. It’ll be a disgrace if you miss them.


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