Sunday, 23 June 2013

Live Review - Killing Joke

Artist: Killing Joke
Date: Thursday June 6, 2013
Venue: The Hi Fi Bar, Brisbane, QLD

Depending on your entry point, Killing Joke is one of those bands who can give the listener a different vibe.  I remember first listening to their acclaimed début album many moons ago and coming away questioning what all the fuss was about.

It wasn't until I endured their 2003 comeback album (which ironically is also a self-titled affair) that I actually  began to realise the urgency Killing Joke posses. As we venture upon the Hi Fi bar, my friend, John, pretty much sums up the beast that is Killing Joke:

"Extremities, Dirt & Various Repressed Emotions pretty much transformed Killing Joke into a fucking behemoth."

And with that, folks, my good friend hit the nail on the head. It's not that front man, Jaz Coleman, and his themes were any less urgent when he wrote albums such as 1980's self-titled début and Revelations. The music, well in my opinion anyway, seemed to be at a parallel with such damning statements. The production seemed like a square peg in a round hole.

As Night Time and Brighter Than A Thousand Suns saw Killing Joke attempt to broaden their fan base, it was Extremities...  that changed and transformed this band. I can hear some of you shaking your head in disbelief at this point, but touching on the first paragraph, it's all about the entry point.

Extremities.... is everything that Killing Joke and Revelations are not. Brutal, pulverising and just fucking dark, lyrically and musically. Their return in 2003 picked up right where albums such as Extremities... and Pandemonium left off. Killing Joke haven't looked back since.

2011's Absolute Dissent is Killing Joke at the height of their return in my books. It combines the lyrical themes of Killing Joke and the pounding noisescapes of Extremities... and Killing Joke (2003) resulting in the behemoth my friend John referred to. Coleman's still crazed, while Martin "Youth" Glover and Kevin "Geordie" Walker appear to be some sort of calming influence, as their leader's psychopathic glares during the robust renditions of 'Requiem' and 'Wardance' make most within his line of vision shudder and shake. This is the Killing Joke live experience. Not unlike watching Swans in the live arena, in fact.

Killing Joke is a relentless animal. The guitar sound of metal on bone coupled with droning bass is piercing for the listener, basically making you feel like a rabbit in headlights. 'The Wait', again sounds so much more dynamic and urgent in the live arena as opposed to the album experience. New songs such as 'Rapture' and 'Corporate Elect' also surpass album renditions trading dense production for loose, abrasive chaos.

Night Time tracks 'Live like Blood and 'Eighties' have also never sounded so pure and intrusive, wrought with haste and danger while 'Asteroid' gouges at the ears of the crowd, almost feeling like holes have been blown through the amplification in the process.

This is something akin to an out of body experience. It feels like post punk at its monolithic best. Not many can boast an ideology such as Killing Joke's. They lead the way for anti-establishment bands today and while acts such as ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead, The Drones, and Primal Scream have all recently made polemic statements through their art, Killing Joke have been doing it for over 30 years.

When a guy in the crowd yells out "Don't fucking stop. EVER!" most around him, including myself, laugh. As much as it sounded like belligerent nonsense at the time, I can't helping but thinking that there was a damning message within that belligerence.

They've outlived a lot of their contemporaries and while mentioned in the same esteem such as The Clash and Gang of Four, Killing Joke have continued to break the boundaries, with their body of sound now just as dangerous and paranoid as their message.

By Simon K.