Jaz Coleman isn’t easy to pin down. The Killing Joke frontman/post-punk Godfather figure has been ordained in New Zealand, set up eco-villages in the South Pacific, recorded in a pyramid in Egypt, disappeared into the Sahara to write a book, led uprisings in Russia and fled to Iceland in fear of a coming apocalypse. Ok, some of that may not be true, but Coleman’s nomadic existence is such that you wouldn’t put any of it past him. It’s this sense of strangeness, on a worldly, majestic scale, that you hear in Pylon – KJ’s 15th studio LP.
His bandmates haven’t sat still either; drummer Paul Ferguson moved to the US to become a sculptor/antiquity-restorer, bassist Martin ‘Youth’ Glover has had a prolific production career, and guitarist Geordie Walker has veered between Prague and the States. So it’s a bit of a wonder that their diaries aligned sufficiently to make a new album at all. Somehow they did, however, and it’s paid off rather well.
Opener Autonomous is ominous and more-ishly riffy, edged with a killer bass slap from Youth. It sets industrial rock parameters – with velvety, gothic finishes – for the rest of the record. Very dark, very menacing. Very Killing Joke, in other words, but bigger and better than they’ve been in years. Not to mention soaringly epic, in a manner that suggests what stadium fillers they could have been, had they been of a less leftfield disposition.
The dark, angry bee swarm of Dawn Of The Hive sustains this momentum, careering in with chugging, apocalyptic guitar fuzz and sophisticated electronic strains. It’s intense, furious and hugely satisfying. Things do open and soften out a little, however, in the almost early-U2-ish likes of Big Buzz, while* War On Freedom* has a romantic, new-wavey atmosphere, in a politically charged sort of way. And for pure heavy industrialised propulsion (that’s also ridiculously hooky), look to Jaz roaring “I am the virus! I am the virus!” on, you guessed it, I Am The Virus.
Not given Killing Joke a try before? Or never really ‘got’ them? Honestly, I didn’t until very recently. But I’m glad I did, because Pylon is ace – driving, exhilarating and slightly unhinged.