Album of the Week 44-2015: Killing Joke – Pylon


London’s Killing Joke has somewhat of a unique position when it comes to expectations. You know you’re going to get something that is bleak and overwhelming, but the exact sound of their albums is often somewhat of a mystery until you actually hear it. ‘Pylon’ is surprising, because although it is a Killing Joke record through and through, it sounds so much more inspired and absorbing than ‘MMXII’, which came across as something of a rushed affair. It’s probably their most consistent effort since the original quartet reunited in 2008. An unsettling, but ultimately rewarding sonic adventure.

Geordie Walker’s guitar is the first thing that catches my attention; it sounds better than it has in a long time. The riffs sound razor sharp and precise, while the more soundscape-like work is spacious and vast. In addition, the way Paul Ferguson’s acoustic drum work mixes with the electronic rhythms is reminiscent of the band’s 1994 masterpiece ‘Pandemonium’ – not unlike the album cover – and Jaz Coleman appears to actually sing instead of yelling declamations of rebellion this time around. He’s still Britain’s prime prophet of disaster, but this change in vocal approach really fits the unimaginably bleak sound of the record.

While it was their semi-industrial Post Punk riffing that initially drew me toward Killing Joke, it’s increasingly been the songs that are something of a departure that are my favorites lately. Case in point: ‘Euphoria’. The heavy reverb on the guitars and the desolate atmosphere of the song suggest a strong New Wave and early Goth influence, turning the song into a beautifully ugly work of art, only rivaled by ‘New Jerusalem’, in which the swinging rhythms of Ferguson and the electronics make way for a storm of dark, grey clouds in the chorus. Ferguson’s drum work in the song is nothing short of exceptional.

Most of the other songs are typical Killing Joke affairs in which songs get their climaxes from building up layers of intensity rather than having loads of riffs around. In fact, some of the songs (‘Delete’ most prominently) hardly feature any changes in the riff department, they just grow wider when the chorus comes around. Youth’s sub-octave bass sound works wonders here. Also, the riffs on tracks like ‘War On Freedom’ and ‘Dawn Of The Hive’ are simply just really good. Closer ‘Into The Unknown’ adapts a somewhat more epic approach that works marvellously. Initially, I thought the song was a little too long, but every part makes perfect sense.

Reunions of original lineups are usually nostalgia-driven more than anything, but with ‘Pylon’, Killing Joke proves once again (‘Absolute Dissent’ was the first evidence) that the lineup of Coleman, Walker, Youth and Ferguson is really the only one that can fully capture the scarred, but unbowed spirit of Killing Joke. This rhythm section especially does miraculous things to the band’s loud, rude, but also danceable Post Punk sound. ‘Pylon’ perfectly measures up to the band’s classic sound, but open minded fans of Punk, Metal and darker Indie should definitely give this a chance.

Recommended tracks: ‘Euphoria’, ‘New Jerusalem’, ‘Into The Unknown’, ‘War On Freedom’

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