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Killing Joke


Review by Mike Korn

Having been in existence since 1978, Killing Joke has seen the birth of many styles of music. You could say that they created some of those forms of music. They’ve also seen the rise of the corporate state, the digital culture of zero privacy and a type of environmental overkill that is changing the very planet we live on. I can think of few bands more qualified to deliver a musical statement on what we are doing to ourselves.

Pylon is that statement. It’s hard to believe that a band that has been active for over 30 years can release something this fierce, forward-thinking and caustic. Killing Joke has their finger on the pulse of an insane world and they are not pulling any punches. Pylon is one of their most aggressive records. Their trademark combination of metal, new wave and industrial elements sounds diamond hard here and mercurial vocalist Jaz Coleman has made himself into something of a shaman for these trying times. His vocals are not designed to sound “good” in the traditional pop sense but to tell stories and give warnings.

I have a feeling it may be too late to heed those warnings, but while waiting for the end, Pylon will keep you entertained.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2015  Volume 6 at

Track by Track Review
Autonomous Zone

An electronic pulse and the faint ghost of a vocal refrain lead the way to this song. Then it explodes into a fast, ferocious pounding that combines metal and industrial with a kind of Middle Eastern feel. Coleman’s singsong vocals relate a tale of the machine age while guitarist Geordie Walker cranks out the power chords and the bass/drum combo of Martin "Youth" Glover and "Big" Paul Ferguson provide a metronome-like backbone. This killer cut reminds me of a lot of the tracks from the Pandemonium album.

Dawn of the Hive
This pounding cut has even more of a machine-like feel than the first piece did. The song title suggests a culture of robots and the music follows suit. The precision of the unflagging bass and drum work is remarkable. I don’t think you could program machines to sound more “locked in”. In keeping with the music, Coleman’s vocals are more robotic and emotionless.
New Cold War
“Cold” is the operative word here as Walker’s guitar riffs have a very icy feel to them. This tune has a very deliberate pace to it as it tells the story of a new world order dominated by giant corporations that manipulate geopolitics for profit. There’s a constant synth undertone and the keys are bubbling just beneath the surface.
A fast and propulsive song, this has a strong new wave feeling. It sounds like a heavier and more dour U2 and hearkens back to some of the gloomy Goth rock of the 80s. Only this is Killing Joke, so the guitar is stronger and the beat more aggressive.
New Jerusalem
This longer track is almost funky in a sinister way, with bleeping and tweeting electronic samples accompanying a steady but dark sounding beat. The chorus is very heavy and the vocals become rawer and angrier. Despite the deliberate pace, this is a pretty angry cut and drummer Ferguson gets to cut loose with ferocious pounding.
War on Freedom
We have the top pick of the album here. It has such a hypnotic chunky sound with some very spooky guitar and shouted vocals. Walker’s guitar work is just outstanding. The guy has been playing since the mid-70s and his sound is absolutely contemporary. The lyrics bite like a piranha and live up to the title. I’m not sure I agree with the literal words, but the general meaning can’t be denied by anyone with intelligence.
Big Buzz
This has more of that 8os Goth/new wave feel to it. Coleman’s singsong vocals are a little tiresome to me here. I get more of that “dark U2” feeling from the jangly guitars, and it’s poppier than the other tunes although still with a grim edge to it.
Here’s a nervous, edgy cut that sounds like a soundtrack to paranoia. Based on choppy, simple riffs, this has almost subliminal synthesizer tones and occasional bursts of very heavy guitar popping up to keep you on edge. Coleman’s typical vocals pour on the gloom of a world eating itself alive. The repetition might be wearying for some but it fits the tone the band is trying to create.
I Am the Virus
Metal fans will enjoy this roaring, crushing cut that keeps moving forward like an artillery barrage. This is a shout of defiance to the powers that are squashing us all underfoot…a killer example of industrial metal to match anything else out there.
Into the Unknown
They keep the momentum going with this bruiser. Killing Joke’s template of basic riffs, catchy rhythms and a general feeling of gloom works like a charm. My only issue is that Coleman needs to shake up his singing style now and then…a whole album of this trademark up-and-down chanting gets tedious. To compensate, this driving and aggressive cut is as tight as a drum musically.
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