Review Summary: Killing Joke go Industrial and create a genre classic in the process
After a successful return to their post-punk roots on Extremities, Dirt and Various Repressed Emotions
, and a four year break, Killing Joke returned to the underground music scene with Pandemonium
. The album is strange to say the least. The sound on this album continues with the experimental post-punk style found on albums such as Extremities
and the band's debut, but this album differs heavily from these albums in its sound. On this album, the band decided to merge their sound with middle eastern instruments and samples along with very industrial sounding keyboards. Because of this sound, the album became popular among fans of industrial when it was released.
The albums unique sound can be immediately seen on the opening song, “Pandemonium”, which starts off with a distorted horn like instrument in the distance before an excellent riff starts the song off. As the song progresses, Jaz’s distinct vocals come in as the opening riff continues to play. Throughout the song, middle eastern wind instruments play over the guitar riffs creating an extremely dense sound.
The rest of the album follows this formula at varying speeds. Songs such as “Exorcism” and “Whiteout” are aggressive and contain fast riffs and no clean vocals, while other songs like “The Pleasures of the Flesh” and “Communion” are a lot slower and more atmospheric. Even on the faster tracks, the albums dark atmosphere and middle eastern influences remain apparent, keeping the sound very consistent throughout. While this is a strong point of the album, it can also grow tiring at times, as the album is a little over an hour long and is very repetitive. Songs like “Pandemonium” and “Exorcism” clock in at around 8 minutes and have very little in the way of variation. Sure, the driving riffs on the songs are often excellent, but they can grow tiresome after they are repeated four minutes straight without any variation. Despite this, the album really has no other weaknesses. All of the songs are very unique and memorable. Some of them such as “Black Moon” and “Millennium” have very catchy choruses that will get stuck in the listeners head after just one listen.
The only songs that really change the formula on the album are “The Mathematics of Chaos” and “Jana” which are both very different from the rest of the album. “The Mathematics of Chaos” has a lead riff that resembles what you would hear on the rest of the album, but the song has a synth beat instead of the usual drumming, and goes for more of a dance vibe. This song is probably the catchiest off of the entire album, especially because of the excellent chorus. On the flip side, “Jana” is the most out of place song off of the album. The song has more of a rock sound and very soft sounding vocals. While the heavy layer of guitar distortion and Killing Joke sound are still present on this track, the middle eastern influence takes a backseat as the band goes in a more commercial direction with their sound. Despite the change in tone, the song still has some great vocal work and a catchy riff that save it from really harming the album too much.
Overall, Killing Joke does an excellent here of building atmosphere and writing memorable songs. I have been listening to this album for probably 13 years and I still haven't grown tired of it. As previously stated, the album can drag a bit at points due to the repetition, but this does not change how good this album is throughout its 60 minute duration. This album is a must listen for fans of Killing Joke, Industrial, or just experimental music in general.