Killing Joke- who's laughing now?
Killing Joke- who's laughing now?
Killing Joke- who's laughing now?
Killing Joke- who’s laughing now?

Killing Joke
Rebellion Festival
Saturday 9thAugust 2014

Even at the other end of the stunning faded grandeur of the large Empress Ballroom you can feel Jaz Coleman’s glare.

You can feel the shamanic vision, you can feel the high IQ filth and disgust, you can feel the revolutionary spirt and you can fell the acidic intensity of the frontman as he spits out the lyrics to songs which are over thirty years old but have never dated lyrically or musically and you can feel the maverick and brilliant spirit of a band that cannot be tamed.

There has never been another band like Killing Joke.

Birthed out of the post punk mayhem when music was up for grabs and there was no template, they took the energy and the adventure of punk and dived headlong into a desolate landscape of the crumbling concrete of the UK with a series of albums that perfectly captured the fear and paranoia of the times. They terrified journalists and they created a world of their own which they continue to celebrate to this day and which has influenced any band which needs to learn the fundamentals on how to create a genuinely dangerous rock music.

Like their fellow travellers, PiL, they combined the glare of the then youth-quake of punk with an interest in funk and dub and soul with bouncing bomb bass-lines and disco drums that switched with their unique tribal pound to create masterpieces of sound that, as tonight proves, really stand the test of time.

There’s something about Killing Joke. A magik and mystique and a genuine aura of danger and a real focus as the band combine their forces into songs like Psyche which they deliver tonight with a brimstone urgency and that funky undertow that whips the Gathering up into a manic dancing to the bells of the apocalypse. All this darkness is highly attractive and all this stunning power is addictive and that’s the heart of what matters about the band- they make an intense electric grind that you can dance to.

It’s that dark amorphous power, that unrelenting riffing from that unmistakeable guitar from Geordie- who still has that unique skull scraping sound, that bulging intensity from Jaz Coleman’s vocals or Youth’s lanky old school cool and those loping disco funk dub bass lines.

Utterly unique and, well, just utterly…

As they headline Rebellion they sound like nothing else. The relentless riffing is pure raw power, the distillation of the dark art of rock n roll into a powerful and perfect whole. Killing Joke are beyond rock n roll- they operate in the neo classical- a stomping Wagnerian madness that is a long way away from the 12 bar blues but they still enjoy the raw power of electric mayhem and somehow manage to combine their intellectual intensity with the primal power of punk rock that birthed them.

Tonight they play mainly their early stuff- the stuff the critics hated at the time but has had a profound influence on rock music since then from Nirvana to industrial to even Jimmy Page giving them more than just a nod. Their music never dates and it sounds even more intense than when it was first dealt out in the London squat scene round Notting Hill where they were created in some kind of musical alchemy session that got deliciously out of control

The Death And Resurrection show sounds brooding whilst Madness sounds schizoid terrifying and yet its white of the eyes glare is only the madness of THE TRUTH and Turn To Red is the darkest of dark dubs with Youth looking effortlessly cool dealing the dub undertow. Wardance has never sounded more apt with the world in flames and Requiem sounds like the anthem for the end times.

Shame they don’t delve too deep into their recent catalogue- much as I love those early albums, and they were a big part of my youthful soundtrack and have lived with me all my life- the recent trilogy of albums has found the band back in command of their dystopian terror vision.

The fact that they are working on a new album and that their eyes twinkle with glee at the dangerous sounds they are working on is a major cause of celebration for followers of this most unique and compelling bands who, despite their packed and varied extra curricular work, somehow still manage to combine and retain their dark and thrilling edge.

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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. First time I’ve seen ’em in years and what I saw was excellent. Great to hear the first four songs, Wardance,, Complications, Requiem and Change (a welcome slow tempo after the speed of many other bands) but then buggered off for a bit of King Kurt before getting back for The Wait with a few excellent encores inc Pssyche. Most enjoyable and wish I’d seen more though my Joke mad brother filled me in a bit later with what I missed whilst we had a late drink elsewhere, Good weekend all round and their sound was a highlight.


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