A new Killing Joke can only mean one thing; that the world is still going to hell in a handbasket whilst we all sit idly by allowing our lives to ruled by commerce and relying on fallible technology which used to moronic and greedy ends by politicians will lead Earth into an era of totalitarian singularity in which all persons will be connected and the notion of country and culture will be a thing of the past, eventually leading to total collapse of the species… or something like that. All set to powerful riffs.
Pylon is the third release from the post-punk/industrial/metal icons since they re-formed in their original 1980 line-up of Jaz Coleman, Youth, Paul Ferguson and Geordie Walker. 2010’s hard-as-hell Absolute Dissent was widely a celebrated behemoth metal album. 2012’s follow-up MMXII followed a similarly intense trend, incorporating more industrial synths. Plus on top of the that the band’s rich thirty year history is a rogue’s gallery of classic songs and influential albums.
Opener ‘Autonomous Zone’ kicks proceedings off with a bang. Incorporating everything we know and love about the band. A deranged electronic rhythm, panicked lead guitars, menacing bass and Coleman’s shaman vocals echoing throughout declaring “No drones!”. It’s car-chase pace doesn’t let up with ‘Dawn of the Hive’. Walker’s engine-like, grunting guitars makes the song feel like a cast-off from its 2003 self-titled album. That’s before the chorus hits and suddenly ascends to another plain where the synths and Coleman’s echoing vocals carry the track to something beyond a metal dirge.
The vocals are not always the easiest to decipher, most due to the way they are mixed. The message is always understood though and on certain songs his voice is as much a musical instrument as any of the others being played. ‘New Cold War’ we get to hear his guttural growl which in the last decade has made him one of the premiere heavy metal vocalists, it’s also a track that musically and subject-wise similar to their previous electro-infused ‘European Super State’. ‘Euphoria’ is as close as the album comes to a reflective number, musically expansive it’s a testament to the band that they can sound as though they are recording in a boiler room on one song to standing on top of a mountainside the next. It’s a feat very few bands can pull off.
‘War On Freedom’ plays out like classic 90’s Joke. A swaggering riff played by what sounds like an orchestra of guitars accompanies the simple hook asking “What am I afraid of?” in this age of the internet. It sits comfortably alongside any song on Democracy. ‘Big Buzz’, ‘Delete’ and ‘I Am The Virus’ all continue the trend with no let up. Even the last two albums allowed a few moments to breathe with a couple of chilled (well, chilled by Killing Joke’s standards) but Pylon‘s pace never slows. From ‘Autonomous Zone’ to closer ‘Into the Unknown’ the album rattles along at a remarkable speed.
Killing Joke still sound vital and pissed off after all these years. Despite all the ingredients being there to make the most disillusioned gatherer grin with joy it left this one a little disappointed. There’s not one bad song on the album but there’s there are also few stand outs. Pylon‘s ten tracks musically seem to mesh together in a sea of lovely production where most of the songs seem to have been written to a similar template. Production-wise things seem to have been smoothed down, losing the edges that made Absolute Dissent such a potent force back in 2010.
That being said Killing Joke are still one of the best heavy music outfits destroying ears across the world. There’s certainly no end in site to the issues that fuel their music. A world without problems is a world where Killing Joke doesn’t exist. I’m not sure which one I would prefer.
3.5 / 5