At the point about halfway through watching the evening news, when you’re lying fetal on the couch and clutching a pillow as if for dear life, empathy receptors shorting out with endless images of oil spills, Middle Eastern quagmires, fake economies collapsing, beady-eyed tea parties, and polar bears grimly surveying their non-existent future, you can take one comforting thought with you: when things get really REALLY bad, a new Killing Joke album is bound to be around the corner. And, right on schedule, here is Absolute Dissent, the fourteenth album from the UK underground’s very own wild-eyed Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. In fact, this is the first studio album with the original lineup (shamanic bassist Youth rejoining the fold after Paul Raven’s untimely passing) in 28 fucking years, and this is very much a rejuvenated Killing Joke, with much of the metalistic torpor of the last couple of albums burnt away in a crucible of disgust and paranoia. This is a goddamn impressive album, every note put down with absolute conviction and urgency, as if they realize this might be their last chance for expression (and conversion) before… what? The classic Killing Joke template is unchanged, just refined — tribal, unhinged percussion courtesy of Big Paul Ferguson, Youth’s liquid dub bass meltdowns, Geordie Walker’s still seminal “shards of glass” guitar lines, and Coleman’s Jim Jones-esque performance as the centerpiece with a voice that veers from Lemmy-aping feral roar, to an oddly beautiful choirboy lilt.
And as good (and it is very fucking good) as the music is, half of the fun of Killing Joke is the batshit insane stunts they pull. I’m talking about vocalist Jaz Coleman (also a classical composer and radical ecologist), Youth, and Geordie Walker fleeing to Iceland to wait out the apocalypse when they became convinced that 1982 was the end times. I’m talking about bribing the Egyptian Minister of Culture to let them record an album in the Great Pyramid. I’m talking about releasing a one-track album that was basically just a long spoken essay on demonology and the imminent coming of the Elder Gods. But the music was always grounded in reality. The epic sweep, the rush of blood to the head, the fragile core of humanity that makes Absolute Dissent sound so urgent and vital makes one furtively wish that in some alternate reality, Killing Joke rode the success of (dancefloor hit) “Love Like Blood” all the way to U2-level stature. Could you imagine Jaz Coleman and not Bono meeting the Pope and hanging out with President Obama? What could have been.
Killing Joke: www.killingjoke.com