Killing Joke love this first Friday in November and have played London on the date for the last few years. I know this well as it is the same weekend as Damnation Festival in Leeds meaning I keep missing them. Not this year though, The Great Gathering as it is billed called and could not be ignored; it felt like coming home. There’s stacks of other shows in London tonight too including The Mission with Skeletal Family at The Forum and I wondered if this would all impact on the amount here tonight especially as I walk in and find it rather thin on the ground.
The Membranes are in full swing, a band whose name I know well but have not really encountered before to the best of my knowledge. Fairly prolific in the 80’s and I do remember their name from playing at The Clarendon Ballroom, they had split for some years reactivating in 2009. They may have aged but their quiffs still stand proud looking like leftovers from Psychobilly times but the tribal bombast with industrialised overtones ringing out suggest this is no easy band to pigeonhole. They have a biker ballast taking right back to the post-punk era and reminding me a bit of long forgotten bands such as The Batfish Boys at first. Sound is loud and muffled and it is like the venue is trying to get acclimatised herself, yet to fully engage for an invasion of people to fill in all the spaces. We are lead ‘In The Graveyard’ and things go dub heavy with some fluttering guitar work making it more than obvious why this lot were chosen to support. I am reminded a bit of a mix of The Clash, Spear Of Destiny, PIL and Bauhaus, this is ticking all the right boxes. With spooky green light on the stage there’s plenty of atmosphere and with the crowd chanting along to the chorus of ‘The Hum Of The Universe’ it’s obvious they had some fans in the house tonight. This was a thoroughly enjoyable first encounter making me feel guilty I had left it so long. The Membranes are definitely worth exploring more.
Unfortunately that’s not the case for Death Valley High as we went from the old guard to a band doing it for da kids. The main problem is that a Killing Joke gig isn’t one heavy on the ground with the youth and seasoned veterans like those present have little time for posturing, sharp haircut bratcore from San Fran. Their new album is called ‘CVLT [AS FVK]’ and that should kind of tell you everything you need to know. Their brand of nu-electro-metal has the ring of the sort of bands that crawl out of Kerrang’s butthole on an all too regular basis, spawned on a diet of Marilyn Manson, Slipknot and Mindless Self Indulgence. Hell, they have youth and exuberance on their side and will probably be headlining Download circa 2020 but their angsty musical malcontent was going down like a lead balloon here. DVH self-titled finale song had balls about it and with the right crowd they would have no down gone down a lot better. As far as most of us were concerned relief at them finishing and going back to detention couldn’t come soon enough.
We get some punky reggae party beats courtesy of LX who I am assuming is Alex Paterson of The Orb as we wait for the main event. The Gathering have now fully arrived and the place is rammed. Expectation is palpable and at near boiling point as Killing Joke take their places. It would be a bad pun to say there is a Hum in the air but there is and that’s what they start off with after dispensing with that ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ theme that I note they are still using to great effect as an intro. Guitars jangle and grate, drums pound, the prophet of the end of times takes his place and slowly, slowly we are off caught up in the arcane melee of it all. The sound is spot on but I have managed to get stage right at the front near the speaker and am somewhat surprised when the band plough into the grandiose tones of biggest hit ‘Love Like Blood’ for just the second song. I had avoided looking at any set list of the tour prior to this wanting it all to be a surprise. I know people who went to both York Fibbers and Colchester Arts Centre had great reports of things and it was quickly evident the band are at their prime tonight having fully warmed themselves up for this near capacity audience. Everyone joins in at the chorus and I take in the stage in front of me. Jaz in the centre looks pretty damn smart for the occasion, black suited and not wearing any boiler coveralls tonight. A barefoot Youth on bass looks like he is the bad seed of the family, the uncle that is not spoken of much and has just come off the beach in Goa where he has been living in a hippy commune for the last two decades. Far to my left is Geordie looking like he is fighting a war on his own that nobody told him is over and at the back thudding rigorously buried behind the kit we can only assume is Paul Ferguson.
Marching around Jaz cheerily informs us that “the age of man is coming to an end, it’s time to drink and fuck” which is all well and good but I’m not sure security here would have been happy on all fronts and with the frenzied tones of ‘Eighties’ as a soundtrack it would all have been over rather quickly. We had some flaming ladies join the band on stage a few times, by that I mean they twirled about some fiery sticks and did some fire-breathing. I had been about to venture into the pit but found a space right on the barrier (no injuries tonight) and could feel the heat from the stage. Luckily unlike a small venue like The Underworld those of us there could escape with eyebrows intact tonight. A phalanx of recent songs such as ‘New Cold War’ went down very well and are greeted like old friends. I would imagine there are few present tonight who don’t own last album ‘Pylon’ already. Mixing it up with old classics such as the anthemic ‘Requiem’ and electrifying ‘Change’ meant everyone was happy and soaking up the atmosphere. There’s little time for between song chat bar accusations of being medicated and warnings of chem-trails from our (oc)cult leader, it’s a case of cramming as many songs in as possible. It’s impossible to mention highlights as each and every one of them is. The bouncy pogo of European Super State (such an apt song of our times), the brutal killing technology assault of ‘I Am The Virus’ through to the foreboding and ominous apocalyptic ‘The Wait,’ everything hits the mark. There’s even a bit of a dance off going on between Jaz and Youth who both really seem to be in their element. Then all too soon the band are finishing.
Of course an encore is obligatory and a surprise ‘Death And Resurrection Show’ is one I am not expecting to hear whereas ‘Wardance’ very much is. We are told the world is going to end next year and descend into Pandemonium, with its incessant call of “I can see tomorrow’ (see what they did there) so perhaps it is not. If that’s the case no doubt same time next year, consider it a date. For the moment it’s a case of staggering out the venue somewhat shell-shocked basking in the glow of a fantastic show!