Killing Joke

What's THIS For...!

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AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett

If not quite as remarkable as the band's gripping self-titled debut, What's THIS For...! showed that Killing Joke could maintain their frenetic, doom-wracked intensity while experimenting with their already strongly established style. Jaz Coleman's vocals go through even more treatments and tweaks than before, chorus shout-alongs swathed in deep echoes, hidden behind Geordie Walker's punishing riffs and the steroid-driven rhythm section. Big Paul Ferguson in particular lays down some absolutely skull-crushing drum slams and Youth is no less intense at most parts, and often they rather than Coleman or Geordie dictate the song, as the lengthy death-groove of "Madness" makes perfectly clear. Elsewhere Geordie shows a calmer (comparatively) side, soloing on songs like "Butcher" making common cause with the guitar work of Bernard Sumner in Joy Division days -- indeed, the song as a whole could almost be a tribute to that band, and one of the better ones at that. The playing around with supposed genre boundaries doesn't hurt either -- the beatbox/synth loop pulse of "Follow the Leaders," crossed with the more brusque blasts from the core band, suggests its eventual path in later years, while "Tension" lets the slithering funk heart of the band burst forth even more strongly. (The drums and opening riffs themselves almost sound like a parody of the Knack's "My Sharona.") "Unspeakable" is arguably the hidden highlight of the album, Coleman's heavily flanged, distorted singing sliding down a slowly descending chord pattern that suggests an early glam band gone martial and paranoid, Ferguson all over his set like four people at once. The debts of later bands toward Killing Joke are even clearer than ever, whether it's the fact a group named themselves after the opening track, "The Fall of Because," or that late-'80s Ministry so effectively cloned the whole style on songs like "Burning Inside."

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