25 October 2015
Killing Joke - Pylon
I always have a sense of excitement when I hear that Killing Joke are going to release a new record, they have never released something for me that is not been (at the very least) interesting. Sometimes they have been spectacular, some have just been good, some have been criminally ignored and some have been praised to the heavens; the thing that is always consistent is that they have never been boring. If you are reading this I would assume that you know their back story, I really do not want to go over old ground and if you do not know their back story I would recommend a quick interlink search - plenty of interviews and articles up there. It has been three years since "MMXII" and we have the third album of the original line up, before it was released they launched a PledgeMusic campaign which gave various opportunities to purchase the deluxe version of this album with some beautiful extras (alas you cannot purchase any of the packages any more, but I am sure they will do something for their next release). The art work is great and would have been a contender for cover roulette, even if it was an album I was going to pick up - I am reviewing the standard version of the album as per usual, so let us see how it has turned out.
The album starts with “Autonomous Zone” which has stripped back the distortion peddle from the guitar and the punk is back in control. With horns droning throughout the song, it sounds as if Armageddon is back on the menu as the let the electronic song, pounding drums and pulsing bass take over. Jaz Coleman sounds as if he is a prophetical teacher, delivering his sermon of warning to the masses once more in the form of this song. The only thing is the beginning drum section reminded me a bit of Skid Row in places and their song “Youth Gone Wild”, but drum sounds do that all the time for me (remind me of different acts, not that everyone copies Skid Row – that would be a silly thing for them to do). On the first listen it might not grab everyone as it is not as instant as “Democracy” or “Pandemonium”, but it has a feel of their ‘Kings & Queen’ era sound is being mixed with their recent output and this is a very good thing for the start of this album. “Dawn of the Hive” is where all the distortion from “Autonomous Zone” was hiding as this is a bat crap crazy song that does not give the listener any chance for a rest, it is straight into the action with an aggressive riff that swims around and around – stalking its pray as they go in for the attack. It is a long number (in fact half of the tracks on the album pass the six minute mark), but it does not feel as if anything from the number should have been left off to make it more effective. It is a solid, angry and infectious number that shows there is more life in this band (thank the deity). “New Cold War” is a song that instantly reminds me of “European Super State” from ‘Absolute Dissent’, it has that similar alternative disco feel and politically barbed message of warning as its sister from another album; but this song does go off like a bomb in the chorus as they bring the scorn down on the current world order. It is a song that can be took on its face value and will have people dancing around to some quality post-punk sound, it is also a song of warning which will have the furious pumping their fists to this new anthem of despair.
The fourth song on this album is called “Euphoria” which continues this post punk odyssey towards new lands with a fast paced song that Killing Joke can create without really trying, it is a style of song that they have done so many times before and I am still yet to grow tired of it. Is it doing anything I have not heard before? No – but that is not the point, it is a damn fine number that can either be played in the background or equally when the mood is right, it can make the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. It is not changing my world, but it would be a darker place with Killing Joke making this sort of song. Following on is “New Jerusalem” which is introduced in a sea of rumbling noise, chunky guitar riffs, deep bass and some very stylish drumming as well. The chorus sections is an explosion in a turbulent sea of noise the sounds like a war is happening in the background. For the first few spins I was struggling to connect with the song, it just would not sink in as well as other numbers on the album and I know this is not down to the performance. The band sound as fierce as always and the lyrics are as hard hitting as you would expect, but it was not coming together as fluidly as other songs on the album. I will like to point out that it does improve with subsequent listens and you hear more from the music each time, in a few years it might end up being my track of the album and I will probably be shaking my head at the twat who is writing this review; but for now it is just a decent number which is verging on a good one. "War on Freedom" however has me from the opening guitar strum, the song is a mid-pace, post punk tune that they have been able to knock out for ages and it all about (as you have probably guessed) the war against our personal rights and freedoms. It is a thought provoking number for sure, it is also another song that will grow over time - it is one I connected with straight away, but it grew with each listen as well.
The seventh track is called "Big Buzz" which harks back to their earlier, 1980's sound with its steady and constant drumming, jangling post punk guitar, strong bass work and subtle synths in support as the vocals sound like no time has passed since the band first brought out "Eighties" and were the new faces in the scene. It is not a nostalgia piece at all, it is still focused on the here and now - I also think if anyone was to suggest over wise, they would find a group of men at their door who would want to correct them with the error of their thinking. It is song that has a groove in the mix that is very striking, it is one of those strong numbers that can catch you by surprise - a cracking song. However, "Delete" is a song that just floors everything in its path - I mean this song is a loop that swings around and around in your skull once it starts, it has a high tempo beat that is very infectious and a sense of fury that can only be described as the sound of the permanently pissed off. I love the way everything falls into place with this song as it feels as if a perfect storm has been created and will swallow all into its path as it reaches its endgame - angry perfection. The penultimate song is called "I Am the Virus", this is the song that have the fire that made 'Hosannas from the Basements of Hell' such a destructive and beautiful record. It just sounds massive - the riff goes around and around with a fast pace drone nature, the drumming is manic and there is a sense of danger when the song is being played that gives it a great feeling of excitement as well. It is another great number and one which I would hope, will become a staple of their live set on the tour they are about to commence to support this album. Ending the album is "Unto the Unknown" and they are not letting up one inch on this record, it is straight over the cliff and heading towards the pit as they fight their way to the end of the album. With another riff that grabs your attention, drums that drive the song and a bass line that rumbles in the background, all that we can do it hang on and enjoy the ride as the album comes to a fitting conclusion.
You have to tip your hat off the Killing Joke for making another great album, they have been on a constant roll of great albums since 'Pandemonium' and their second self-titled album after the break for the criminally underrated 'Democracy'. It does hint back towards their earlier days in places, but never in a backwards or reflective way that would be taken as nostalgia; they are still as fucked off as ever and that fire is in no danger of dying out soon, what they have here is another great album from the band who have rarely put a foot wrong. Killing Joke have the ability to be as beautiful as they are harsh, their music is always a contradiction and I love that they still making music that is important. It does not disappoint at all, it is sounds as relevant as anything else in their discography and shows that ages does not lessen the ability of Killing Joke to reflect the mood of the world when needed.
8 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart
Top track - Delete
You can purchase Pylon from Amazon here
You can visit the Killing Joke website here
You can follow their activities on Facebook here
You can stream Pylon on Spotify here
You can stream Pylon on Deezer here
You can stream Pylon on Tidal here
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