One of my most anticipated albums of the year and there’s been much in the way of promotion leading up to this, in fact you could hardly have failed to realise that it was on the way if you are part of the band’s loyal gathering. A Killing Joke album is an event rather than a simple release though and so it should be as the band have released 15 now (and that includes Outside The Gate whether you feel it should be in there or not) since their first self-titled debut hit hard way back in 1980. Back with the original line-up of Jaz Coleman, Youth, Geordie Walker and Paul Ferguson (not forgetting Reza on keyboards) the band have been going from strength to strength in recent years and most fans are with them for life through thick and thin. Pylon is further proof that there aint much on the thin side either and rest assured it’s another stormer.
I had been playing this continuously via label download whilst waiting for my pre order copy with 5 extra tracks to drop through the door. Whilst waiting and sitting down to put words to internet paper a promo on disc arrived so at least I have the chance to blast it out the stereo as I write. The new songs, all ten of them are already firm old friends and there was a huge amount of familiarity about them even after the first couple of plays. This is Killing Joke in the present but it is also the Joke of the past, whilst they have progressed they have never stagnated or forgotten their roots. Proof of this is found in opener ‘Autonomous Zone’ brooding in and thumping with a hefty drum bombast that shakes and bounces you up and down. It’s the underlying clarion clamour about this that takes you right back, it could be the companion piece to The Pandys Are Coming from 1982 album Revelations. It has the hum and the buzz of it rifling through it and Jaz is in fine pitch with his beseeching vocals making it sound all the more arcane and mysterious. Although the album is as paranoid as ever thematically (and for good reason in this world we live in) this is one of quite a few tracks with Jaz sounding more relaxed and letting his parts flow in a beatific style rather than angry and indignant. ‘Dawn Of The Hive’ is a number that by title takes us back to the Termite Mound perhaps? This is much more abrasive as it piles in and judders like an electric current is flying through it, did someone touch that Pylon? The bass tones are really heavy here and the production is thick and thundering as it surges towards one of those great rising stadium etched choral anthem that the band are so proficient at. Some grandiose shimmering guitar work leads towards ‘New Cold War’ a real bouncer with an after apocalypse vibe of doom and gloom about it. It reminds a bit of material from Brighter Than 1000 Suns and has another rugged and formidable chorus to it that giddily rises with backing vocal yells and roars. ‘Euphoria’ is like an ecstasy tablet hitting you in waves and warming you up as it sends shivers down the spine. I guess it could be looked at as a slow-burner but under it the guitar lines have pure 80’s Goth nostalgia about them and the reaction from listening is again totally in line with the track title. A robotic clank sees New Jerusalem clanking out setting a pace for what feels like a never-ending march to destroy everything in its path. Jaz hollers in and things are crushed in a mangled wreck of machinery, now we’re pissed off and it builds to one of the most earth shattering choruses of the album.
It had not been my intention but as we move into the B) side it’s obvious that there is little choice but to make this a track by track review. ‘War On Freedom’ has got a bit of a jackboot feel to the militant drumming and the vocal wails sound like they are not prepared to take anything lying down. There’s also some killer hooks to this from Geordie. ‘Big Buzz’ has an almost post-rock, Indie jangle feel to it and the clean harmonious vocals on this are so heartfelt and full of emotion it’s quite humbling to listen to. It’s definitely the album’s most melodic and poignant number feeling like it has yearning for things past at its heart. Obviously I am going to have to study lyrics and narrative themes in more detail when my finished album arrives. ‘Delete’ is a psychedelic stomper, one where I can imagine sprawling fractals filling a screen and a laughing jester’s face mocking as data is deleted and the computer starts to lose stability. It makes me wonder which of the tracks on the album will be aired live, there’s not one I would disagree with being included on the group’s latest tour and this one is going to advance through a crowd like a knife through soft butter and spread its infection throughout. But the real problem is still coming as the single ‘I Am The Virus’ hits with malicious destructive havoc. It’s a killer tune and the album’s angriest number by far. The classic feel and leaden stomp of it is a blast as it obliterates everything and rages away, just watch the video below and be prepared to sing along (but not the words I am the walrus as a friend first thought.) Finally we arrive at Into The Unknown but as for that and I can’t resist but….. Now when’s that disc of extra songs turning up, postman stalking engaged!
(9/10 Pete Woods)