Posts Tagged ‘Killing Joke’

Christopher Nosnibor

For a long, long while now, Killing Joke have been a 1,500 or so capacity venue band. Hardy perennials of the post-punk scene, I first saw them in the early 90s at Rock City in Nottingham touring the mighty Pandemonium album. They’ve never really been away over the course of a career spanning four decades, but their 2003 proved to be a landmark in their renewed vitality. The onslaught hasn’t really stopped since then, and with the original lineup reinstated, the thing that’s most remarkable about Killing Joke is just how current and utterly essential they feel right now. Some of that’s down t the fact they’ve always been a hard-touring band and a going concern rathe than some nostalgia act but their recent string of albums have been as politically sharp and sonically abrasive as anything you’re likely to find. So it’s small wonder that an additional date at the front-end of the UK leg of their immense European tour at the 400-or-so capacity Fibbers, announced at only a week’s notice, should be sold out.

The evening’s support, Death Valley High, do a decent job of warming up what could have been a difficult crowd. The US foursome, drawing influence from old-school and latter day goth with a major leaning toward the sound of classic Wax Trax! grind out a set culled primarily from their album CVLT (released 4th November). The guitars could do with being a bit more up in the mix, but against a blinding backdrop they give it a hundred per cent. Front man Reyka Osburn gets down into the crowd, who are hanging back away from the stage, and actually manages to get some audience participation going, for which substantial kudos is due.

DVH

Death Valley High

Needless to say, shortly after they’re done (and on this occasion those who delayed their arrival missed out), the venue’s packed and it’s getting pretty tight down the front while the roadies prepare the stage with bottled water, a large rug, candles and incense. Yes, it’s a Killing Joke gig alright. And unlike many larger shows – including when I saw them at Leeds Beckett around a year ago, for one of the fist reviews featured on Aural Aggravation – there’s no barrier. People are resting their pint pots on the edge of the stage, and when the band take the stage, we’re standing within handshaking distance. This is a big deal.

The open a career-spanning set with a gut-busting rendition of ‘The Hum’ from their 1982 album Revelations. The eighties indie-goth hits are dispatched early, with ‘Love Like Blood’ (dedicated to Raven) being the second song on the set-list, followed immediately by a buoyant ‘Eighties’.

After that, it’s back-to-back recent cuts, with a thunderous ‘Autonomous Zone’ and ‘New Cold War’ – simultaneously textured and delivered with the force of a battering ram – representing Pylon. Things take a turn for the even heavier immediately after, with a relentless ‘Exorcism’ finding the band hitting optimum intensity. Standing close together on the small stage, Geordie nonchalantly grinds out the absolute mother of all chirning riffs while Youth, looking like a strange ex-yuppie golfer who’s discovered New Age mysticism with his sparse dreadlocks and, visor peak and flowing star-and-moon cape, reminds us that he’s an incredibly solid bassist.

Killing Joke

Killing Joke

It’s a long set, and impressively – especially given the age of the band-members – doesn’t let up on the tempo for the duration: there are no lighter-waving anthems or slow ballads to allow band or audience alike to catch their breath. There are a lot of older men with bald heads in the crowd, and they mosh relentlessly and with wild abandon as Jaz marches non-stop. He has a stare that can reach the back of any 1,500 capacity venue, so, the intensity he radiates is even more powerful in this small space. But for all the apocalyptic menace, it’s clear he’s having a ball, and there are smiles all round between the veteran players as they feed off the audience’s adulation. Coleman’s voice is showing no sign of diminishment, and the band are so tightly together, playing with the intuition only endless hours shared in rehearsal and on stage can bring.

KJ Setlist

Killing Joke – Setlist

The latest material is up there with their best, and ‘I Am the Virus’ is a particular standout, exploding with fury, while ‘Dawn of the Hive’ is punishingly dense, before the main set ends with the swift one-two of ‘The Wait’ and ‘Psyche’.

The sole track from their landmark 2003 album is the first of the encore, and ‘Death and Resurrection Show’ is nothing short of monstrous. While I would have personally liked to have heard more from Extremities (I never tire of ‘Money is Not Our God’), ‘The Beautiful Dead’ is epic and is perhaps the most sedate song of the set.

With ‘Empire Song’ cut for time (I get why venues have to wind up gigs early to accommodate club nights: it’s a matter of economics, but it will never cease to be a cause of frustration that major headliners have to abridge their shows, for which punters have paid over £20 a ticket only to be turfed out at 10:30 to make way for a clamour of 3-4-2 alcopop-scoffing cretins), they complete the encore with ‘Wardance’ and ‘Pandemonium.’ And it’s fucking belting.

In many ways, this perfectly summarises the appeal of Killing Joke. They’re relentless in their barrage of dense, angry, grey metallic noise. And they’re consistent, both on record and live. A Killing Joke is like being pummelled, mercilessly, yet it’s also immensely exhilarating, because they’re a band who mean every word, every note, and the sense of unity in the room – band and fans – is something special. Everything is fucked. We know it, they know it. They’re preaching it to the converted, but for this time, we truly are all in it together. And despite the eternal sense of impending doom, it’s a great feeling.

Advertisements

House Of Mythology – 26th August 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Like Natalie Imbruglia, I’m torn. Fence-sitting is no position for anyone, least of all a music reviewer: ho-hum is no critique. But I’m torn between instinct and critical distance here. Y’see, it’s a fine line between spirituality and pseudomystical bullshit. And the trouble is, one man’s spirituality is another man’s pseudomystical bullshit. The orientation of most organised religions and many other credos includes a certain emphasis on collectivism and unity, but ultimately any belief system or spiritual framework is inherently personal.

This review starts on difficult ground: Hypnopazūzu is a collaboration between David Tibet and Youth. I’m a huge fan of Killing Joke, and can only salute Youth for his production work, despite the fact I’m not keen on many of the major artists he’s worked with. David Tibet is an entirely different proposition and is someone I’ve never really been a fan of. I don’t have any issue with Current 93 per se, and it would be a grave mistake to overlook their contribution to the development of the experimental strain of industrial music in the early 80s. I’ve simply never got into their work. But some of the company David Tibet has kept over the course of his career does give cause for concern, not least of all prominent neo-Nazis Boyd Rice and Douglas Pearce. It would be a mistake to call Tibet guilty by association, but perhaps he should be more careful about the people he works with: Current 93 re broadly associated with Neofolk, and the Neofolk scene is conspicuous for the number of dodgy people connected with it. And beyond that, there are an awful lot of really turgid albums in circulation, which, when not revelling in far-right thematics, are preoccupied with disappearing up their own sphincters while preaching high occultism.

To give Tibet the benefit of the doubt, he presents as a broad-minded individual, who identifies himself as a Christian, but has devoted a lot of time to exploring occultism, Buddhism and Gnosticism, and as such, appears to be genuinely exploratory (rather than hiding behind the pretence of exploration as a means of justifying the use of dangerous imagery), engaged with spirituality in its broadest sense on a purely intellectual level first and foremost. Which brings us to Create Christ, Sailor Boy. How does one position a work such as this?

The press release describes it as ‘transcendent, tumultuous, and tricky, the sound of two spirits skipping as one to create a sidereal glimpse into uncounted cartoons,’ and quotes Tibet as saying, “I am happy always to work with Youth in any way, forever and for ever and always and in all ways… I wait for my Ouija Board Planchette to receive his Mind’s Eye Text.”

I’ll refrain from making any gags about the mind’s eye, third eye, and the brown eye and keep things as objective as possible. In such a context it’s perhaps a mistake to attempt to determine whether or not this is an album of high spirituality or pseudomystical bullshit, primarily in the interest of keeping a certain critical distance. Is it possible to separate the aesthetic from the art? Perhaps: Tibet has also long shown himself to be a man preoccupied with the apocalypse, and the sense of apocalyptic foreboding hangs heavy over this album. In the current global climate, it feels entirely appropriate. These are scary and challenging times, regardless of one’s faith or faithlessness, and in this context, Create Christ, Sailor Boy is an album of our times. It’s the soundtrack to struggle, the soundtrack of desperation, of humanity reaching out and clutching, desperately for something. Anything.

There can be no question that Create Christ, Sailor Boy is truly immense in scope and depth. Particularly in depth. This goes beyond the human condition. And in many respects transcends vague notions of spiritualism. This is not soul music, or even soulful in the conventional sense, so much as music which probes the very core of the soul, pulling hard at the gut. From the opening notes – shimmering, sweeping synths and crashing cymbals – provide an epic and portentous backdrop to Tibet’s evocations of apocalypse and build to a momentous climax. And all within the album’s first five minutes. Yes, this is colossal work that’s epic on every level. Every level. On first listen, I detested this album, but it needs time to grow. And time to grow. Whichever side of the fence you may sit.

‘Christmas with the Channellers’ brings forth an ethereal subterranean atmosphere which typifies the album as a whole. It’s an immense track which brings together heaven and hell in a battle on this earthly domain and as Tibet tears his guts out through his vocal delivery, the enormity of existence is thrown into sharp relief. ‘The Crow At Play’ is a tense colossus, which finds Tibet rasp into a frenzy as he name-checks Gary Glitter. Yes, this is a work’s that’s socially engaged and as such it would be wrong to accuse it of being a work which focuses on the spiritual at the expense of the real world.

‘It’s tool time!’ Tibet announces in a wide-eyed and excited tone on ‘Sweet Sodom Singings’. Is the invocation of Home Improvement intentional? It surely must be. There is no shortage of lyrical evidence to confirm that Tibet is as in touch with the upper world and its culture as he is with all things internal and far above the flesh.

Sonically, it’s interesting, too, with tracks like ‘The Sex of Stars’ whipping up a dense sonic maelstrom in contrast with the psychedelic / eastern / industrial crossover of ‘Sweet Sodom Singings’ and the trudging ‘Pinoccio’s Handjob’, the ethereal spacetronica of ‘The Auras re Escaping into the Forest and the and brooding folk of ‘Night Shout, Bird Tongue’. In terms of textural range, it’s hard to fault.

In many respects, I’m still on the fence, but musically and compositionally, Create Christ, Sailor Boy is an impressive work. It may be pseudomystical bullshit, but it’s a powerful album that has a lot of listening hours in it.

 

Hypnozazu - Create Christ Sailor Boy

Neurot Records – 6th May 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

The story goes that Alaric (featuring within its ranks current and former members Of Dead And Gone, Pins Of Light, Noothgrush, Hedersleben and UK Subs) began their journey in 2008 with an eye toward creating a moody and compelling music of a sort not often performed in this time and space. A different concept of doom, beginning with influences from such progenitors as Killing Joke and Christian Death to the darkest, heaviest punk bands and the most epic psychedelia. A good-time, feel-good party band they are not.

I am going for a ‘sheets of electric rain’ guitar sound, says guitarist Russ Kent. This should perhaps give an indication of the fact that End of Mirrors finds Alaric exploring some bleak territory, in which guitar riffs are not the driving aspect of the sound, and whereby the guitars provide texture and density instead of shape or form. Using the guitar in this way is by no means new: from the late 70s and early 80s, bands like Sonic Youth, Swans and Bauhaus shifted the emphasis toward the rhythm section, with the guitar serving not a secondary, but alternative musical function. It’s from this background that Alaric’s sound can be found emerging, and End of Mirrors betrays heavy influence from the no-wave and early goth (before it was called goth and was simply a dark strain of post-punk) scenes, infused with a very metal edge. As such, while it’s very much steeped in a number of 80s styles, it’s an album which incorporates them in unusual and innovative ways.

Eight-minute opener ‘Demon’ sets the tone. A lengthy, atmospheric introduction of trudging percussion and simmering feedback gives way to a crushing riff, from which emerges a big, meandering bass-led groove, part Sabbath, part Neurosis. ‘Wreckage’ builds a bleak scene with squalling, spindly guitars layered over a thunderous drum and heavily flanged bassline reminiscent of Pornography-era Cure. But the throaty vocals are more Al Jurgensen circa The Land of Rape and Honey. Moody and intense, the dark despondency carries through into ‘Mirror’. ‘Don’t look in the mirror,’ Shane Baker growls in a deceptively catchy chorus before the song suddenly explodes into grinding thrash riff that piledrives it to another plane.

It’s unexpected twists like this which break the barren expanses of claustrophobic doubt. And do be clear, it’s very much the Rozz Williams incarnation of Christian Death that manifests in the interloping guitar lines of ‘Adore’, and if ‘The Shrinking World’ sounds like an early JG Ballard novel, the metallic scrape encapsulates a near-future dystopia worthy of the great author. The title track is a Melvins-like blast of grinding thrash, a thunderous tempest of a track that sears in at under three explosive minutes, and marks quite a contrast from the longer goth-orientated pieces which dominate the album.

As a whole, it’s a dark, almost apocalyptic sweep of sound. Sitting alongside the recent releases by Se Delan and Madame Mayflower, 2016 is starting to look like the year goth is reborn. Forget darkwave and all that cal: emerging from a protracted period of social and economic turmoil, uncertainty, unrest, fear and an all-pervading sense of existential trauma, we’re back in the late 70s and early 80s, and this is the real deal.

 

Alaric_EOM_cover copy 72 pixels

 

Alaric Online