Killing Joke - Pylon
Released 23/10/2015


Killing Joke - Pylon

As Steve Hogarth, from the much gentler band Marillion, once sang "If you are not outraged, you haven't been paying attention." Mr Jaz Coleman has definitely been paying very close attention. For nearly forty years Jaz has weaved his apocalyptic tales while he and his cohorts channel their fury into some of the most abrasive, confrontational music you will ever hear. Pylon is the last of a trio of albums that began with 2008's monumental Absolute Dissent and continued with 2012's equally impressive, but very different MMXII.

Given the undisputed quality of those last two releases there's an excitement about this release, which has been funded via Pledge Music. And there's no disappointment here. Pylon has been created by splicing the ferocity of Absolute Dissent with the smoother, more keyboard led MMXII and, of course, this release has the usual Killing Joke passion, power and tribal savagery running right through its dna.

Pressing play with great anticipation, Autonomous Zone explodes out of the speakers on a wave of pulsing synths and Jaz's echoey vocals. The the guitar, bass and drums kick in and the song takes off like a rocket fueled by pure venom. Geordie's scything guitar echoes the synth riff from the song's beginning and Youth's bass throbs away in the background. Big Paul 's drums propel the song forward at breakneck pace, thundering along, underpinning a huge wall of sound. And somewhere in the middle of the maelstrom is Jaz Coleman, spitting out his lyrics. The song rushes to a climax riding the crest of the tidal wave of sound the band have created, crashing down to earth as the synth pattern stutters to a grinding halt.

There's little respite as Geordie peels out the staccato riff to Dawn Of The Hive. If anything this song is even heavier than its predecessor with industrial strength keyboards providing a sheen to the turbocharged composition. Jaz's vocals soar majestically over the noise the other three musicians are creating.

Finally the band relent and almost allow us to catch our breath with the hugely catchy, synth-lead Euphoria. Whilst Killing Joke can batter you with ease, they have always had an ear for the tuneful and mix the two extremes together so well. The atmospheric New Jerusalem has a funky beat, obviously influenced by Youth's love of dub, and a dusty, middle eastern feel to it, allowing Jaz to intone his ominous lyrics like some possessed preacher. Jaz may not have the best voice you'll ever hear but he knows exactly how to use it to get the best out of it.

And so the album continues with cut after cut of prime Killing Joke music. Driven on relentlessly by Big Paul Ferguson's explosive percussion and Youth's teeth-rattling bass. Over this rhythmic onslaught Geordie and Jaz weave their spell. The songs on Pylon appear deceptively simple but scratch the suface and the complexities of their music shine through. It isn't all played at warp speed either. There's the icy, emotionless glide of A New Cold War and the mid-paced crunch of War On Freedom. There's the jangly, angular Big Buzz which is supremely captivating and the solid thud of Delete, given colour with huge swathes of keyboards which rise to a crescendo along with Geordie's ever more frantic guitar. Superb!

The crushing I Am The Virus sums Killing Joke up perfectly. With Jaz barking out his paranoid homily over brutal waves of music it gathers you up like jetsam in the path of a tsunami, depositing you dazed and confused at the song's abrupt end. The music is hard and heavy but the tribal rhythms make you want to dance manically. One of the best songs of their long and illustrious career, this is destined to become a live favourite, especially in the pit down the front!


Into The Unknown closes the album in fine style. A thrilling race to the finishing tape and proof, if proof was needed, that Killing joke are as relevant and compelling today as they have always been. This collection of songs hail from a dark, dystopian world gone wrong, where conspiracy lurks around every corner and the end times are surely just a heartbeat away. This is music for the four horsemen to ride to.

Having purchased the deluxe version from Pledge Music, there is a second disk with five extra songs. Youth's remix of Snakedance is interesting but hardly essential. The other four songs are, I assume, from the same sessions as disk one and are all worthy of inclusion. Apotheosis arrives similarly to the early songs on disk oneā€¦ a welter of acerbity, driving rhythms and swooshing electronica, Jaz's vocals buried deep within the tumultuous music. However for all its heaviness this is a divinely commercial song. It's just that its velvet caress comes wrapped in an iron clad fist! Plague is slow, and measured, based around synths and an insistent riff. The drums and bass muted, rumbling away in the background like a distant avalanche. Star Spangled gradually ups the pace again, building to a huge climax and Panopticon is like something crawling out of a dark, malignant swamp. Creeping perniciously out of the speakers on a measured, twisted riff punctuated by ferocious bursts of heaviness that heave under Jaz's heavily distorted vocals.

Killing Joke are on fire on Pylon. Laser sharp and honed to lethal perfection, this is the sound of a band at the peak of its powers. Geordie seemingly has an endless supply of riffs, both inventive and incisive. Big Paul batters his drums as if they are made from the bones of his enemies and Youth lays down such a concentrated foundation with his bass playing. But at the centre of it all is Jaz Coleman, ringmaster supreme, passionate poet, soothsayer and visionary leader. A fiercely intelligent man who is never happier than when preaching to the perverted and raging against the machine, Jaz isn't going quietly! The wall of noise production by the band and Tom Dalgety is dense. So dense that there's almost no room for the music to breathe which gives the album a claustrophobic feel. This suits the album down to the ground. The artwork by Mike Coles in conjunction with the band is suitably dark and forbidding but rather than the usual cd booklet the insert folds out so that the full montage can be seen. I spent a happy ten minutes trying to fold it up again properly! There's also no lyrics but that's a minor quibble given the overall quality of the release.

It's miraculous that a band who have been making music for so long and had so many ups and downs as Killing Joke have can sound so vital, so fresh and so necessary in today's music scene. Long may they continue to kick against the pricks!



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