Review Summary: One of many great works that included the bass playing of Paul Raven who died on October 20th, 2007.
Paul Raven died on October 20th, 2007 of an apparent heart attack. He was an excellent bass player that played with bands such as Prong
, and Godflesh
, as well as being a respected producer. Despite the name dropping of bands that most may know better, the band that made him famous was Killing Joke. Whether you’ve ever heard Killing Joke or not, you’ve probably heard their influence in bands from Nirvana
to Fear Factory
, and, of course, there was the cover of their song “The Wait” that Metallica
did back in the day. Sadly, after this weekend, it’s pretty apparent that his extensive back catalog is now closed and nothing else can be added to it. It is with his death in mind, and the knowledge that we’re never going to be able to hear anything new from him again that I go into one of my favorite Killing Joke albums that just so happens to also feature him on bass. That album is called Brighter Then a Thousand Suns
For those that have heard Killing Joke, most probably think of the abrasive rock of their debut or the dark industrial metal of their later works, full of heavy riffs, samples, and the rasping vocals of Jaz Coleman. If you’re one of those people that have something similar in mind than you’re in for a surprise. Brighter Then a Thousand Suns
was released in 1986 during the period that Killing Joke were playing a much more 80’s pop-rock style of music, similar to that of The Smiths
or The Cure
. On this album there aren’t any distorted riffs or abrasive vocals, in fact there isn’t any aggression at all. Instead, we’re treated to some well played 80’s-style rock that stands head-and-shoulders above their contemporaries due to the excellent musicianship and the dense layered quality of the music.
The album begins with one of the better songs, “Adorations”, and sets the stage for the entire album. “Adorations” starts out with an almost danceable drumbeat complimented by a rolling bass line from Paul Raven. The drum sound is what you’d expect from an 80’s album. They sound very mechanical and flat, with a slight echo-effect given to them. The bass, on the other hand, is mixed to the front and gives this song (and every other) a very addictive groove that is hard to ignore. When the guitar comes in there isn’t any distortion, only a slight echo effect. The keyboards provide the majority of the melody and also sound like what you’d expect from an 80’s album. They are played mainly in the higher registers and have quite a bit of reverb to them. When vocalist Jaz Coleman comes in it may shock those that are only familiar with their later works. Instead of the gravel-throated vocalist of those later albums, he sings the entire time in a very clear, crisp voice. The closest description of his voice would be to say that he sounds like a cross between Robert Smith (The Cure) and Morrissey (The Smiths, Morrissey
The next track, “Sanity”, is virtually the same elements as the previous song except done differently enough to give it its own identity. It has the great bass lines of Raven complimenting the simple danceable beats with some uncomplicated guitar riffs and keyboard melodies, and it is catchy as hell and will have you singing by the end of the first listen. As was hinted earlier, every song on this album is basically a variation of those exact elements, except that they are done differently enough that the album never drags and it is easy to tell where one song has ended and where another has begun.
Another thing that sets this apart from the typical rock of the era, besides the layered quality of the music, is the somber mood that almost every song creates. Despite the danceable beats and energy, the keyboards and Jaz’s vocals make each song sound depressing. A song such as “Chessboards” or “Love of the Masses” would be a perfect example. Each song has a lot of energy as it chugs along with infectious bass lines and danceable beats, but the tones of the keyboards and the sorrow that emanates from Jaz ‘s voice overrides the upbeat music and impart a feeling of grief. It’s a strange combination, but it works.
While it is definitely depressing to know that bassist Paul Raven is no longer with us and will no longer be lending his talents to various bands, we can all take comfort in his extensive back catalog full of gems such as this album. Throughout his life he played a wide spectrum of musical styles, from the precision metal of Prong
to the industrial metal of Ministry
, to post-punk weirdness with Murder Inc.
. Of course, there are also some very high quality 80’s rock on albums that are just as great now as the day they were released.
Rest in peace: Paul Raven (January 16th, 1961 – October 20th, 2007)