The only good that could ever come of the seminal goth/punk/industrial pioneer Paul Raven’s death is that it brought the original line-up of Killing Joke back together. Raven, who died of a heart attack in October of 2007, was a member of such monumental industrial acts as: Pigface, Ministry, Prong, Godflesh and Killing Joke. Raven stepped into the bassist role for KJ after electronic guru, Martin “Youth” Glover, (Killing Joke, The Orb) decided to leave the ensemble in 1982. His absence signaled a sea change that turned KJ towards the more tribal sound for which they are best known, from a more electro-pop sound that they cultivated in the late 70s. KJ has now found a middle ground; between all of the sounds that they’ve ever produced, coming to culmination with their latest: Absolute Dissent.
Killing Joke’s efforts stretch across four decades, and though subject to changes in both personnel and sound, there is still something unmistakable about KJ. Jaz Coleman has always walked the line between vocal angel and demon, sometimes singing is parts straight and gorgeous, other times working his signature growl resembling a possessed man gargling battery acid. But regardless of sound, this European fore-bearer of industrial dance, has always been political to the Nth degree. On AD, Killing Joke discusses everything from privacy matters, fluoride in drinking water, overpopulation, the origins of H1N1, the war in Iraq, to UFO sightings, and while this band might seem headed for the crazy house, I can guarantee you, KJ is smarter (and arguably more sane) than you. A quick glance at the band’s lyrics will have you scouring the net for hours questioning the answers.
Opening with the title track, “Absolute Dissent” the band yields a swirling wall of sound with danceable disco back-beats resembling earlier KJ records, but the next track, “The Great Cull” and “Fresh Fever from the Skies” are a return to the brash, acerbic anthems of KJ’s industrial edge. The record continues on these lines, switching up hard-edged industrial (This World Hell, Endgame, Depthcharge) with the melodic and danceable (In Excelsis, European Super State, Honour the Fire). KJ then honours the late Paul Raven with an epic track in “The Raven King,” a six minute plus overture that cycles through KJ’s electronic origins, settling with a more hybridized sound; the track is elating, soulful, and moving. “Here Comes the Singularity” and “Ghosts of Ladbrooke Grove” are surprisingly melodic despite themes of the apocalypse (2012 phenomenon and aliens). “Ghosts” is rooted in English reggae and dub, showing their late 70s, U.K. appeal, as well. The collection is, arguably, the best of KJ; mixing everything we love about them.
Killing Joke is one of the most compelling, intelligent, interesting bands in existence, today, and they have been for decades; it doesn’t seem as though the magic will ever dry up, either. As long as the world turns, Killing Joke (and the ghost of Paul Raven) have claimed a musical terra firma all their own, on which to bring forth the demons of the decades, and slay them with their passions and music.