Released: 2015, Spinefarm Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
You can argue all you want about the relative “metalness” of England’s Killing Joke, but the band’s influence and impact on heavy music over a nearly 40-year career is undeniable, as reflected in acts as varied as Metallica, Faith No More and Soundgarden, not to mention Godflesh, Fear Factory and Prong – with whom they have shared members.
And since the band's original lineup of vocalist/provocateur Jaz Coleman, guitarist Geordie Walker, bassist Martin “Youth” Glover and drummer Paul Ferguson reunited following the death of recently departed bassist Paul Raven in 2008, Killing Joke have shown an increasing propensity for heaviness themselves. 2012's MMXII was heftier and more tumultuous than its predecessor, Absolute Dissent from 2010, and the band's latest effort, Pylon, sees them stepping up the oomph! factor yet again.
Where Killing Joke have eased their way into the last couple albums and slowly built intensity, Pylon gets things going in a hurry with the propulsive “Autonomous Zone,” which rides the foggy, swirling rhythms of Glover and Ferguson. “Dawn Of The Hive” brings Walker's weighty riffs to the fore in an industrial metal clamor that recalls Ministry – another band that owes a considerable debt to Killing Joke - during the height of their Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste powers.
Walker's thick, angular guitaring again powers the concussive chorus of “New Cold War,” a song that otherwise rides a disco-fied thrum and Coleman's reasoned vocals that speak to the escalation in militant rhetoric and muscle flexing among Eastern and Western powers. This after the band railed against the “old cold war” a couple decades ago. So much for political progress.
As is usually the case with Killing Joke, much of Pylon hammers home a dim view of the current state of world affairs. Here, Coleman laments cyber shenanigans on “War On Freedom” and “Delete,” paranoia and media manipulation in “I Am The Virus” and, by extension, the Pandora's box being opened by the unchecked rise of technology on the ominous “New Jerusalem” and “Dawn Of The Hive.”
Yet his thoughtfully doom-laden lyrics and almost disarming delivery – rarely raising his voice above a measured holler – and the band's somehow cheerfully gloomy bombast make for an especially effective contrast that in no way seems heavy-handed. Even though Walker's guitaring is more prominent and sometimes downright menacing, notably on “Virus” and the massive “Into The Unknown” that closes Pylon out – two of the heaviest songs Killing Joke have done probably ever - the almost electro-pop catchiness of the arrangements of much of the material makes the stark message go down with startling ease.
It really says something about the band that after nearly four decades, they can sound as vital and vibrant as they do here, all while making you feel like you're flat out fucked. Pylon is a triumphant, yet terrifying album that, though a wee bit long-winded, is some of Killing Joke's finest work.