Review Summary: Killing Joke delivers an end-of-times album full of carnage, disarray, paranoia…and just a little bit of hope.
Although the idea of a secretive, looming apocalypse has been a concern amongst conspiracy theorists and religious groups for centuries (if not millennia), there is an undeniable buzz around the year in which we currently reside. There were the failed predictions of Harold Camping on May 21, 2011, a phenomenon that gave rise to assertions that Christian literature’s foreshadowing of “false prophets” in the end of days finally came into fruition. The world has been rocked with one natural disaster after another, from tsunamis to deadly nuclear meltdowns. Tensions are palpable and it seems like every nation is at each other’s throats. And of course, you can’t forget what the Mayans, a civilization that spent the better part of its existence studying astrological patterns, predicted about December of this year. So what does all of this mean? Are we all doomed? Most sensible people would say no. There’s an explanation for everything: Camping maliciously exploited the foolish and/or was a fool himself, natural disasters always happen, the Mayans just ran out of fucking tablets to write on, and since when has the entire world not
been fighting? Whatever your belief about 2012 is, however, it is nearly impossible not to be captivated by the sheer magnitude of the idea. What if this really is
it? Killing Joke’s take on the subject seems to be something of a compromise. They believe that 2012 will bring about great change – it will be violent and possess a sense of finality, but ultimately, it will result in a better world. Cue MMXII
, the band’s fifteenth studio album in thirty two years and an industrial juggernaut that is truly a sign of the times.
It wouldn’t be an apocalyptic album without an absolute epic hidden somewhere – and on MMXII
, it is front and center stage. The nine minute opener, ‘Pole Shift’, is a devastatingly ominous electronic slow-burner, commencing with distant, thunderous explosions that suggest the upheaval is nigh. The title of the song is likely taken from the popularized theory that in 2012 the Earth with endure a massive shift in the geographic location of the poles and its axis of rotation, resulting in cataclysmic floods and earthquakes. As the song progresses, it paints a picture of such calamities: thrashing electric riffs from Geordie Walker, searing growls from Jaz Coleman, and multiple tempo changes all collaborate to compose an elaborate metaphorical symphony of sorts. Over the course of its nine minute duration, though, it never hurries. The entire track unwinds and unravels with a sinister patience, almost taking perverse pleasure in the suffering that is being depicted. The album continues its slow plod forward with ‘Fema Camp’, opting to create a feeling of disillusionment and emotional devastation instead of taking the expected route to a sky-high climax. This sense of balance makes its way through MMXII
’s entire fabric, conveying the same level of urgency as its predecessor (Absolute Dissent
) while diversifying musical approaches. The album eventually explodes in the way we have gotten used to hearing from Killing Joke, as ‘Rapture’ reintroduces the chugging, pulsating post-punk riffs that made their debut (and songs as recent as ‘The Great Cull’) so irresistible. Despite its overall simplicity, the abrasive and unrelenting rhythm arrives like a punch in the face – a welcome change from the more downtrodden approach taken in the opening two tracks.
has made its initial impression, it never settles into a lull. This is an album that is constantly on the move – alternating genre styles, mixing up the intensity, and introducing one new theme after another. ‘In Cythera’ is a prime illustration, taking more of an alt-rock approach than Killing Joke perhaps ever has before and pulling it off exceptionally well. Coleman’s voice swims through an atmosphere of reverberated guitars and glimmering electronic effects to construct one of the most contemplative songs MMXII
has to offer, and all without sacrificing the pervading sense of darkness that extends across the record’s entirety. ‘Primobile’ follows suit, but it feels noticeably angrier - gruff screams intermittently surface between the gorgeously sung verses, serving as an accurate portrayal of the discord that would surely ensue after the foretold chaotic events of late 2012. The guitar-heavy ‘Glitch’ sounds like hell on Earth, and that could very well be what Killing Joke was going for. ‘Trance’ bounces along to a sinister drum beat and heavily industrial electric groove, tempting its listeners to dance away their final days before seamlessly transitioning into MMXII
’s melancholic farewell, ‘On All Hallow’s Eve’ – an ending truly worthy of this immense record. Just as if the end of the world was actually underway, there isn’t a single moment here worth looking away from.
marks one of Killing Joke’s greatest achievements, dating all the way back to their inception in 1978. The band’s unheard-of longevity pays dividends in the form of chemistry and a shared vision that allows the songwriting, instrumental execution, and lyrical themes to coexist on a level so profound that you’ll be left wondering why all bands aren’t this immersed in their work. The controversial and ever-captivating theme of the apocalypse only adds to the intrigue, as does the well-planned year of release. This is an album that should have a major impact on fans of industrial rock/post-punk, and its importance should not be overlooked. Make a point of hearing one of the angriest, most intelligent, and subtly hopeful albums of 2012…while you still can