Killing Joke – Killing Joke (1980): Review

killing

Produced by Killing Joke
Label – E.G.

Formed in 1979, Killing Joke were a band of uncompromising confrontation both on and off record. Refusing to entertain the interest from major record labels, notoriously difficult to interview and galvanized by an increasing public paranoia of the growing cold war threat, they delivered deliberately bludgeoning post punk that was intended to disturb and compel its message to the angered and frustrated. Their early releases were self financed on their own Malicious Damage label to a limited audience, but an agreement with Rough Trade records to distribute this, their debut long player, would introduce listeners to the cold metallic throb of surging tension. It would be easy to assume that the band were musically influenced by Wire or Public Image Ltd; a point front man Jaz Coleman would quickly refute, stating that his band took more instrumental cues from a stripped down Chic. He’s right, there is a rhythmical undercurrent of dance music in many of these songs. At a concise 35 minutes, “Killing Joke” fills the air with thudding rhythm patterns from bass player Youth, and drummer Paul Ferguson, pulsating synth parps from Coleman, and Geordie Walker’s stinging guitar shards. Coleman’s voice ranges from authoritative to maniacal, growling, booming from some nether region deep beneath the realms of mortal enunciation.

Killing Joke in 1980

The pounding opener (“Requiem”) blends punk and metal with passionate chants that declare man’s demise with foreboding menace. “The Wait” is a classic meld of metal and funk, and a masterpiece that builds to a thrillingly memorable chorus. Metallica would revisit and record their own version six years later, and its influence continued to impact industrial metal exponents, Marilyn Manson and Trent Reznor, and mainstream rock acts like The Foo Fighters. Early single “Wardance” is included, a bursting explosion of volatile riff and distorted voices. There’s more expansively instrumental soundscapes on “Tomorrow’s World” and “S.O. 36”, and “Complications” reminds the listener of the glorious rush of quality punk rock circa. 1977.

“Killing Joke” wallows in an incomparable musical vacuum that takes pride in its aggression, harrowing imagery and clinging intensity. No one had the capacity to sound as mentally bruising as this, as powerfully daunting, or as darkly energized.

9/10

Track Rating

1 – Requiem (10)
2 – Wardance (9)
3 – Tomorrow’s World (8)
4 – Blood Sport (8)
5 – The Wait (10)
6 – Complications (8)
7 – S.O. 36 (7)
8 – Primitive (8)

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4 responses to “Killing Joke – Killing Joke (1980): Review

  1. Geoff, I like reading these favourable reviews of ones that I know are on my to-hear list – a 9/10 with your descriptions of the album’s power, sounds like a keeper to me!

    • As you probably know, it’s rare I give a 9 or 10, but this album is fully deserving IMO and that’s partly due to the fact that up until 1980, no one sounded like Killing Joke.

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