Review Summary: A post-punk masterpiece of tribal funk-rock and grinding heavy metal with suitably doom-mongering lyrics and splenetic vocals.
Produced by Killing Joke
UK chart: 39
US chart: Unreleased in USA
AAAAARRRGGGHHHH! IT'S THE APOCALYPSE AND WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!!!!
Sorry about that but I couldn't help it after three solid hours of listening to Killing Joke 
The debut album by Notting Hill band Killing Joke is a key album in the rise of thrash, funk and industrial based metal music. Jaz Coleman and his bandmates crossed punk rock with Black Sabbath for a nihilistic, bludgeoning but inspired and exciting noise and of their early albums, this is their best. The songs describe scenes of violence, war, alienation and death. And so would you be if the headlines featured Thatcher, the Cold War and riots.
The original album comprises of eight tracks. The three key songs are the opening grind Requiem
, famously covered by Foo Fighters, the anthemic The Wait
, famously covered by Metallica and the tribalistic Wardance
, famously covered by...umm...wait, it'll come to me.
opens with air raid siren-like bass from Youth, then a heavy-but-tuneful guitar riff, then a funeral march-tempo drum pound building up to Jaz Coleman's voice, authorital, booming, fearful and repulsed as he shouts "Man watching video, the bomb keeps on ticking. He doesn't know why, he's just cattle for slaughter."
with meticulous enunciation and painstaking coherence. Coleman howls in horror "argh!" just before the pummeling chorus of "RE-QUI-EM"
and the drums roll back into the verse. It's sludgy, circular but funky and catchy, a terrific opener, but it gets better.
is the most well-known Killing Joke song, the dissonant noise at the beginning followed by a choppy funk riff and two-thump, forboding drum, Coleman's voice is higher and distinctly London as he decribes the horrors he sees before the chorus, a just-audible holler of realisation and defiance of "THE WAIT!"
complete with hissing high-hat like a spit of venom at those about to be nuked.
begins with a distorted wheezing and coughing, the song bursts into life with a varispeed mix into a crunching, circular riff and time-bomb synth triplet. A staccato riff sets up more distorted voices, this time a disgusted glance at the malevolence and jingoism of the British male, ("This is music to march to, to a war dance"
) before the entire band chant in unision "A WARDANCE"
. Coleman recognises that "you got something nasty in your mind, trying to get out, to a war dance"
before warning "Look out for a nationalist command"
. The music shudders to a halt, complete with Wheel Of Fortune-like drum and guitar screech.
The three songs are key in understanding Killing Joke's influence and the direction of the band themselves. Requiem
made industrial, a previously hideously misanthropic and pointless sub-genre economically viable for future metal bands taking their cue from it and set up Killing Joke's themes for the next quarter of a century. The Wait
gave heavy rock bands a chance to incorporate funk in their music without imitating funk and gave a clue to the stadium-goth anthems Killing Joke would make on post-Youth albums Fire Dances
and Night Time
is the flipside of shoutalong working class OI! music and made use of distortion and tribal rhythms, opening a door for the synthetic metal of future dance producers and percussion-heavy drums for the more primitive (in a good way) sounds of metal.
The rest of the album stands up well, Tomorrow's World
is a desolate soundscape complete with eerie and sparse synth drops and pounding drums, the guitar thrashes and after a minute Coleman howls a formless lament of being called up to army service, "carry us, face the music, called up for your country, never, no I won't go"
. The synth bloops and ragged guitar riff leap out of the dark before the droning finish. Bloodsport
is a instrumental funk-metal thrash complete with sweeping percussion and boomerang synth lines to recreate the Coliseum orgy of slaughter from ancient times. The ending, a "wooo!" from Coleman and cheering and whooping from a crowd like a victory celebration with horrible drone that literally dies before setting up The Wait
is a song more in common with the three key tracks above than the previous doom-laden songs, Coleman's voice returns to high-register, London-accented yelp of despair as he describes a weird occult-like descent-into-madness tale. It's the shortest song on the album and probably the most accessible with the coherent lyrics and excellent vocal delivery with the band playing more funk-based hard rock. $0.36
is an experimental dirge (nearly seven minutes) over some snippets of a bloke speaking German and Coleman's indecipherable lyrics, but they're deep in the mix anyway. Primitive
has an excellent drum/bass intro, the sweeping synth and chainsaw guitar come in at the right time and Coleman sings about the temptation/righteousness tangle with surprising lyrical insight despite the weird quasi-marching grunts being more disturbing than they should be. Even Goths get the urges.
Killing Joke 1980
was re-issued in 2005 with five bonus tracks, rough mixes of Primitive
and the single mix of Requiem
are fine, but the gem is early single Change
. Simply the best disco-metal song ever, the lyrics are a wake-up call to Go For It!! before it's too late and react against all the evil around you.
It's empowering stuff. The choppy rhythm, the prowling guitar music and awesome pound of the drums before the chorus are excellent backing for Coleman's army drill sergeant voice shouting "You're waiting!"
and sarcastic laughter. And you can dance to it! There's even a dub version for good measure.
If you like Metallica, Soundgarden, Nirvana, Ministry or Sepultura, to name the most obviously influenced, you'll find plenty to - er - "enjoy" on this album, finally complete.
Killing Joke 1980
is the best album made in fear of the Cold War because of its unflinching misanthropy, genuine fear and innovative sound. The ironic thing is the bomb didn't actually drop and if you take a look at the chart positions you'll see it was unreleased in the USA. That's a Killing Joke alright.