Killing Joke - Killing Joke [1980] - Review
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critics' view

Out of all the bands who emerged blinking into the light after the dark days of the Punk Rock wars of '77, there were few stranger (or indeed scarier) than Killing Joke. Fronted by Jaz Coleman, a classically trained chorister and violinist with a penchant for disappearing off to Iceland and predicting apocalypses, KJ combined elements of punk, metal and even funk with a bruising, tribal intensity.

Now acknowleged as a key influence by the likes of Dave Grohl (who ended up playing drums with the band a few years ago), Metallica, Ministry and others, the band's debut remains their best, most cohesive statement. The cover (a Crass - like montage of post industrial cold war gloom) gives a pretty good indication ofthe contents.

An icy synth pulse opens "Requiem", a menacing, chugging monster of a song. Dub, metal and Krautrock come together with a slice of cold war paranoia…"Man watching city fall, the clock keeps on ticking. He doesn't know why, he's just cattle for slaughter" barks Coleman in a voice his choirmaster possibly would not have approved of.

It's the rhythm section of Paul Ferguson (drums) and Youth (bass) that dominates this album, along with the dirty metallic swirls generated by guitarist Geordie. Coleman's synth interjections offer gaseous spurts of noise, like a more disciplined Allen Ravenstein (of Pere Ubu fame).

Subsequent albums would turn their primitivist crunch into a cavernous roar with increasingly luxurious productions, but songs like the evergreen "Wardance" (are you singing along?) and the irresistible industrial funk instrumental "Bloodsport" are rendered up close, impersonal and tight as a coiled spring. Still powerful and relevant 25 years on, Killing Joke is a beautifully scary noise.

Peter Marsh
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The BBC's album reviews ended in 2013, although the pages are archived for retrospective reading.
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