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Release Date: October 23, 2015
Killing Joke are the godfathers of industrial music, and a huge influence on nearly all genres of heavy music. The dense aggression of their sound has inspired bands like Prong, Marilyn Manson, Nirvana, Ministry, Nine Inch Nails and Metallica just to name a few. Thick walls of distorted guitars fight with keyboards to create bleak musical sculptures, all brought to life by the dystopian and rather robotic vocals of Jaz Coleman. The end result is much like heavy metal dance music created by a ten ton construction machine. Thirty-five years after the release of their eponymous full length debut the original lineup proves that time has not diminished Killing Joke’s ferocity or status as leaders in their genre with the group’s sixteenth studio album.
It’s amazing how, even when coupled with a seasoned producer, Killing Joke maintains a raw sound. Songs like “New Cold War” are powerful not only due to their heavy riffs, driving drums and chilling lyrics, but because the sound captured has teeth. It’s still possible to hear the post punk scene that spawned this band, blending aggression and keybards with mechanical precision in a way that dares the listener to continue on to the next song. Even on a more toned down track like “War On Freedom” the abrasive guitar tone of Kevin “Geordie” Walker melds with atmospheric keys to create an environment that evokes a science fiction nightmare. The band may be at their most deadly with the tribal brutality of “I Am the Virus.” Killing Joke seems to find their groove where the entire band exults in an orgy of chaos, holding the listener in the throes of their ecstatic noise.
Pylon is not an album to relax to. The songs are very much about passionate aggression. “Into The Unknown” is forged on an unsettling guitar riff that hearkens back to the band’s earliest works, albeit with a much more ear-searing distortion, and a great chorus. “Euphoria” is also clearly in the vein of Killing Joke’s early days. Creepy keyboards couple with vocals so precise as to almost sound like a human version of autotune create a feeling as much as a sound. If I had to describe that feeling, it would best be classified as “uneasy.” These clear links to the band’s origins sit well beside the more metal flavored material offered on this release, and both approaches work together to create the anxious, paranoid sound that is Killing Joke.
Despite their early punk-inspired, disjointed new wave sound, Killing Joke evolved into a metal band early in their career, and in doing so have been responsible for the creation of at least one genre of heavy music (industrial) and have inspired many to set aside pop trappings to forge the gut wrenching compositions which fuel the heavy metal and punk rock landscapes. Pylon does not disappoint, providing something for fans of the band’s early work and their heaviest moments. This is an album that shows that the men behind the Killing Joke moniker have not grown older as much as they have been seasoned to the peak of their aggression.
Reviewed by Jim 1340