Review Summary: Killing Joke keeps on chugging with their fourteenth studio album – one that should stand among their greatest achievements to date.
For the first time since 1982, Killing Joke has returned to its original lineup. Such long absences usually wreak havoc on a band’s chemistry, often causing them to lose whatever tight
sound they once bestowed upon the world. Jaz Coleman, the band’s renowned vocalist, is now 50 years old. By that age a singer has usually lost the power and overall range required to light a fire in the hearts of fans. With 2010’s Absolute Dissent
, you can throw away any preconceived notions concerning where Killing Joke should be
; here Coleman sounds as savage and determined as ever, and the rest of the band backs him up with convincing performances that prove Killing Joke’s vitality and compel listeners to join in the apocalyptic upheaval that is Absolute Dissent
The band’s fourteenth studio album is by no means a tired effort – and that becomes immediately clear when the title-track/opening track blasts through the speakers with a sludgy, static-heavy energy. The guitar riffs of Kevin “Geordie” Walker slice through the air like an axe through wet wood; forceful and dead-on but with relative ease. Paul Ferguson pounds away on the drums like a demented madman, and although Glover’s bass is subtle, “Absolute Dissent” has already proven something: Killing Joke is a machine that will keep on chugging, no matter how many albums the band has already composed or how many they will continue to release in the future. The title track almost seems like a statement of “we are here, and there isn’t one mother ***ing thing anyone can say or do about it.” And that is just how any post-punk/industrial album should
start; abrasive, in-your-face, and unrelenting.
Fortunately, Killing Joke far from exhaust themselves on the opener. Starting with the apocalypse-driven “The Great Cull”, in which Coleman belts out thin the heard
with startling conviction, Absolute Dissent
only gathers momentum. The meaning behind each song contributes to the album’s sense of urgency nearly as much as the musical components, with lyrical topics revolving around the end of the world, conspiracy theories, and paranoia. Killing Joke delivers some of their best and most disturbing lines to date, such as “The Great Cull” pondering a government-regulated sick population: “Develop virus market cure – exploit the panic / Contaminate by guile and stealth – a quick strum of the harp / Depopulate initiate – pharmaceutical companies / All fall down, all fall down, Codex Alimentarius / Thin the herd!” The bone-chilling effectiveness of Coleman’s coarse screams and raspy vocals elevate the emotional impact that these songs can have on the listener. Absolute Dissent
continues in the same vein throughout, with “Fresh Fever from the Skies” elaborating on a personal story of a potential UFO sighting, and “Depthcharge” warning of the impending environmental ruin sure to sweep across the corners of Earth.
seems to culminate with the heaviest track on the album, “This World Hell.” The song is drenched in industrial metal influences, with chunky, discontinuous guitar riffs in the introduction and screams from Coleman that would give the listener a sore throat just to think about. The style seems to fuse the distortion and absolute brutality of Nine Inch Nails with the start-and-stop, soft-to-loud intrigue of a song like “No Worlds/No Thoughts” by Swans. The song was also recorded all in one take, giving it more of an intimate live feel than any of the other tracks on the record. Although the album doesn’t necessarily match
the intensity of “This World Hell” anywhere afterwards, there are still plenty of notable moments that ensure Absolute Dissent
is a consistent, whole work. For instance, the atmospheric introduction to the closing track “Ghosts of Ladbroke Grove” provides a welcome contrast to the rest of the album’s sheer power and heaviness. There aren’t many calm moments on this record, but the few ones to be found act as an oasis in an otherwise relentless desert of post punk and industrial metal.
As a whole, Absolute Dissent
is a surprisingly invigorated album from Killing Joke. That isn’t to say this is a comeback album, though, because they never really slowed down to begin with. This is just Killing Joke doing what they do best: angry, cynical, anti-establishment assaults that breathe new life into one’s perception of his place in a growingly corrupted world. On Absolute Dissent
, Killing Joke puts all of these qualities on display, and perhaps better than they ever have before.