[Today: Facing down the Kraken…]
Listening to Killing Joke is like facing down the Kraken or some other terrifying mythical creature of doom. Lead singer and keyboardist Jeremy “Jaz” Coleman roars throughout like a beast fueled by hatred. As he told NME in 1982, “If you look at Killing Joke as a group of animals making their own noise and exposing themselves, that’s the way to take [it]. The violence that Killin’ Joke is about is not violence on the immediate level but the mass violence, the violence bubbling underneath your feet, the violence of nature throwing up… and we become that violence.”
That violence is splashed all over their 1980 debut – a black mixture of jittery guitars, pounding drums, swirling synthesizer, and Coleman’s doomsday hollering. Killing Joke may sound like a horror movie, but there’s no question they took this stuff seriously. Coleman, guitarist Kevin “Geordie” Walker and bassist Martin “Youth” Glover moved to Iceland in early 1982 to avoid the coming apocalypse. In what must rate as one of the truly unheralded Spinal Tap moments in rock history, they moved back to London later that year when it became clear that the end was not nigh.
But it’s understandable why this group would run for the hills. In their music, darkness has long since fallen, and the freaks have come out to rape and pillage and quench some bloodlust. Killing Joke have used appropriately disturbing imagery to go with their music, and some of that earned them suspicion of fascism (back when this was a real designation, and not some generic political insult). But this band wasn’t marching in step with anyone else, either politically or musically. Their sound betrays few influences, but they helped ignite both goth and industrial music, and bands from Nine Inch Nails to Tool to Jane’s Addiction have cited them as essential inspiration.
Sure, it’s dark in there. But sometimes it’s good to stare into the abyss and see what yells back…
Listen: The Wait
[Special thanks to Juliana Cobb for passing this album my way…]