EP REVIEW: Killing Joke – Lord of Chaos

It’s been roughly forty-three years since Killing Joke released their first single, Almost Red. Their latest release, the four track single Lord of Chaos (Spinefarm) is the first hint at what the band’s follow up to 2015’s Pylon will sound like. With the existential dread of the world falling apart around us, things may get worse before they get better, but as the horizon gets darker it seems the fire of Killing Joke burns ever brighter.

Despite the constants of vocalist Jaz Coleman and guitarist Geordie Walker, and a certain unmistakable Killing Joke-ness, the band went through thirty years barely putting out even two records without veering off into a new direction. These stylistic shifts often seemed to be driven by personnel changes and conflict. All that came to an end (at least for now) with the death of frequent bassist Paul Raven, which led to the original rhythm section of Youth and Big Paul being brought back into the fold. That was 14 years ago. Since then, each successive Killing Joke record has felt like an organic evolution rather than a rebuild after some psychic detonation. As anyone who’s listened to the subsequent albums, Absolute Dissent, MMXII and Pylon can attest to, the sound of this new (old) Killing Joke line up is up there, in terms of heaviness, with the band’s most sonically murderous material of the past like Pandemonium and Hosannas From the Basements of Hell.

The excitement I felt at the news of a new Killing Joke release coming over the horizon was quickly tempered by a look at the track list. Two new songs and a couple of remixes. 50% padding, at best, I’d thought. How wrong I was. Lord of Chaos is much more than a lead track with some secondary material tacked on. In fact, the lead track may even be the least compelling of the lot. While the past three Killing Joke albums have showcased plenty of variety, Lord of Chaos’ opens very much sounding like ‘I Am The Virus’, from the band’s last album. Propulsive drumming, with neat tom rolls, a chugging, metallic guitar rhythm and Jaz intoning doom over the top. There’s no suggestion the band are going through the motions though, venom drips from Jaz’s tones and the band plays like a horse being whipped to a charging frenzy. Lord of Chaos could be taken as a marker of Killing Joke having entered some Motorhead or AC/DC phase, totally unmistakable, often not very surprising, but deeply, viscerally satisfying.

But then came the “other” three tracks. B-side ‘Total’ has the band delivering more dynamics. Jaz goes back to the vocal well and pulls out some of his more crooning style on the verse, carried by a floating, spacey synth line. A crashing, hard-hitting chorus has Geordie’s guitars descend in full crunch mode and Big Paul hammering those drums like they must be destroyed. If anything though, it’s the final two tracks ‘Big Buzz (Motorcade Mix)’ and ‘Delete In Dub (Youth’s Disco 45 Dystopian Dub)’ that may be the most compelling listening experience of the whole release. Justin Broderick of Godflesh and Jesu once said that when Killing Joke started putting out trance remixes he felt physically sick, so perhaps this isn’t a side of the band he’ll approve of. However, this is the point at which bassist Youth needs to receive particular praise. Just as Jaz Coleman brilliantly re-imagined some of the band’s songs in orchestral form with the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra on Magna invocatio: A Gnostic Mass for Choir and Orchestra Inspired by the Sublime Music of Killing Joke, Youth’s dub re-imaging of the band’s material is absolutely not to be overlooked.

After more than four decades in action Killing Joke continue to evolve. On Lord of Chaos they deliver the familiar chugging riffing and pounding rhythms, while still maintaining the freedom to branch off into whatever direction they choose. So, in the end it seems the band is as eclectic as ever. Maybe now the difference is they’re mixing things up out of curiosity rather than necessity.


Buy the EP here: https://killingjoke.lnk.to/LordOfChaosID


8 / 10