Category: Post-Punk / Industrial / Rock
Blurb: Maintaining its standing as one of the most influential acts in modern music, Killing Joke delivers its fifteenth studio album, a bold and confident affirmation of the band’s sociopolitical principles and musical aesthetics explored over the past three-and-a-half decades.
Having long transcended the post-punk categorization often applied to the band and created a sound all its own, Killing Joke is a band that follows no rules and makes no apologies; an approach that has carried the eminent group through varying degrees of success and influencing numerous acts across the board from rock to metal to industrial to electronic and all points in between. Having now survived for 35 years, the band’s fifteenth studio album, titled Pylon, demonstrates that even while sticking to the knitting of the Killing Joke style, the group is in no shortage of ideas or creative ways to express them.
From the onset of “Autonomous Zone,” the band’s hallmarks are in full swing – from Kevin “Geordie” Walker’s meaty riffs playing in tandem with “Big Paul” Ferguson’s powerful drums, underscored by breathy yet mechanical synth sequences and Martin “Youth” Glover’s shimmering bass penetrating like a switchblade through the mix, and topped off by Jaz Coleman’s soaring melodies, there is no doubt that it is Killing Joke. The song moves with a dynamism and urgency that is so intrinsic to the band’s modus operandi that even though one can trace certain sonic elements back to such classic albums as Democracy and Millennium, it sounds as fresh and original as ever. Throughout, Pylon proves to be a difficult album to keep up with as even in the slower moments, there is a foreboding tension that grips at the listener and never relents; this is especially so in a song like “New Jerusalem,” where the slow pace and sparse arrangement of the verses gives rise to an explosive, almost terrifying chorus, Coleman’s voice moving from the harrowing and moody to the desperate and deranged. Songs like “Big Buzz” and “Euphoria” with their somberly harmonious layers of pads and sustained guitar riffs make for the more melodious moments on the album, evoking the new wave stylings of albums like Night Time or Brighter Than a Thousand Suns, given a greater potency by the wall of ambient overdrive; this is repeated in the shrill atmosphere amid racing beats and thunderous riffs on “Into the Unknown,” Coleman’s voice singing into the void as if to cry, “Come what may,” no matter the outcome, making it a perfect closer to the album. Meanwhile other songs like “Dawn of the Hive,” “Delete,” and “I Am the Virus” move with a vicious energy of speedy beats and guttural guitars, Coleman’s voice more often than not opting for a cleaner range that is no less aggressive than his growling tones, which he does still utilize, but is somehow more poignant in its melodic drama. “New Cold War” is easily one of the catchiest songs on Pylon with another one of Walker’s signature crystalline guitar riffs resonating throughout, the ascending chords of the chorus adding to a sense of a rapidly approaching threat that may or may not actually be there, appropriate to the subject matter.
Funded via the band’s PledgeMusic crowdfunding campaign, and also available in a deluxe edition that features five additional songs, Pylon is yet another example of Killing Joke marching to its own beat, circumventing the conventions of an industry the band has been shunning since day one. From start to finish, this album is loud and bombastic as anything the quartet has ever released, the lyrics continuing on the trajectory set since 1980 to address sociopolitical issues with a boldness and assuredness that few others can successfully match. While the passive observer might find little to distinguish it from other albums in the band’s discography, the more discerning listener will simply accept this as a confidence in those elements that have defined the Killing Joke aesthetic for three-and-a-half decades. Bravo!