Killing Joke: Pylon

The original line-up release their 16th album, the third in a ‘triptych’.

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‘Our time has come!’ declares Jaz Coleman on opener Autonomous Zone. Which is a somewhat strange declaration from a band whose time was generally considered to have been the late 70s/early 80s.

But then Killing Joke, Coleman in particular, were always of an apocalyptic predisposition; it has probably come as a surprise to them that Western civilisation had survived unscathed this far into the 21st century and humanity has not been reduced to a pack of survivors poking about in irradiated ashes.

Still, with the times presently turbulent geopolitically, as reflected upon in tracks like New Cold War, there is always the chance that Coleman and co will be vindicated in their heavy-duty pessimism this time round. ‘Is this the winter of humankind?’ asks Coleman on I Am The Virus, perhaps a touch hopefully.

In the meantime, there’s much to enjoy about Pylon, not least on the punitive, jet-black musical side of things. Autonomous Zone is more than a return to the Joke at their gale-force finest – it reminds of what came in their wake, as if they have been strengthened by feasting on the fruit from their own black tree. Machine-like and remorseless, with an attendant mulch of electronics, it recalls groups like The Young Gods and Nine Inch Nails, the industry that grew up in Killing Joke’s wake.

The album stretches to 15 full tracks – 16 including Snakedance, a Rattlesnake dub remix by Youth (who went on to work with former Killing Joke roadie Alex Paterson in The Orb), which is full of spectacular drops and vistas. It suggests the culmination of a head of steam that began with previous albums MMXII and Absolute Dissent.

The black-sky riffing of Dawn Of The Hive and Panopticon show that they gather up a fast-paced storm like no one else of their era, and, as so many to have emerged from the post-punk scene, they have utterly refused to mellow with age.

Yet as the title of Euphoria suggests, as well as the Gothic portentousness, there is a soaring, epic quality about much of Pylon that reminds of U2 and The Cure at their big, early best, even bringing to mind The Teardrop Explodes.

Had they been of a more conciliatory, upbeat temperament, maybe Killing Joke could have had an alternative career as air-punching stadium rockers. As it is, you can expect their upcoming gigs to be packed to the rafters. Their time has never really gone away.

David Stubbs

David Stubbs is a music, film, TV and football journalist. He has written for The Guardian, NME, The Wire and Uncut, and has written books on Jimi Hendrix, Eminem, Electronic Music and the footballer Charlie Nicholas.