Killing Joke


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Killing Joke's membership has gone through some periods of volatility since they emerged in the late '70s, but the reunion of the group's first lineup -- Jaz Coleman on vocals, Geordie Walker on guitar, Youth on bass, and Paul Ferguson on drums -- had proved to be more stable and prolific than many would have predicted, and 2015's Pylon, the third studio album since the original foursome returned to duty in 2008, shows the veterans are still sounding impressively muscular and acerbic as they close in on their 40th anniversary. Opening with the thunderous bass and drums (and abrasive guitars and electronics) of "Autonomous Zone," Pylon finds Killing Joke still ranting about the sorry state of our culture as they make with a massive sonic assault that would be a dandy soundtrack for the collapse of the civilization of your choice. While Coleman's vocals are generally low in the mix, what creeps through shows his powerful bellow is in fine shape, and the bursts of recognizable thought that make it through suggest he's still reading his daily newspaper and has no more hope for the world than he ever has. (A sticker on the cover of the CD edition reminds us, "Sometimes music makes the world seem a better, brighter place...But this is Killing Joke. So f--k that.") Walker's guitar eloquently chimes and growls on command, while Youth and Ferguson are still a strong, unrelenting rhythm section, and the keyboards and electronic treatments add to the menace and carefully choreographed chaos that have always been part of this band's personality. Pylon doesn't sound terribly innovative within the band's body of work, but the album's widescreen sound and bone-fracturing impact leave no doubt that Killing Joke are still deeply committed to what they do, and it's genuinely remarkable that they're still sounding this furious and effective 35 years after their debut album.

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