Following the recent release of their 15th studio album, ‘Pylon’, pioneers of gothic-industrial Killing Joke have been touring the UK with a variety of awesome bands including Asylums and Soft Moon. Tonight they are gracing the notorious Rock City with steampunk heavyweights The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing, with metal-comedian Andrew O’Neil on guitar and backing vocals….
In preparation for Halloween, the venue has been strewn in an array of nightmarish props, most notably full body bags swaying upside-down from the ceiling. An eerie green glow permeates the stage, with a thin layer of dry ice giving the air a slightly acidic smell. It turns out to be the perfect setting for both bands playing tonight.
The Men explode on stage with their fast, aggressive songs about Prince Albert, goggles, and the tesla coil. Their victorian-inspired outfits are theatrical but their music is unpretentious and fun, and although not many people seem to recognise them, they play with relentless gusto and energy. They get the crowd shouting along to ‘BRUNEL’, a Ramones-esque anthem about 19th century engineering giant, Isambard Kingdom Brunel. That in itself is something I never thought I’d see, so kudos to O’Neil and the gang.
As the main event looms nearer there is a violent serge of people vying for a place at the front. There are clearly many die-hard fans here, maybe some who haven’t seen Killing Joke play live for a couple of decades. As Geordie Walker strides onto the stage slinging his guitar over his shoulder, the room erupts into frenzied cheers. And when Jaz Coleman appears, the sound is defending.
A fiercely intellectual polymath, Coleman has scored symphonies, conducted orchestras, lectured at international universities, and acted in films. His music has inspired a million bands from Foo Fighters to Nine Inch Nails. Tonight he is dressed in a boiler suit with a huge spider plastered onto the back of it, remarkably similar to super-villain Venom’s emblem. Despite being an intimidating presence, he has a manic smile on his face, and is obviously thrilled to be here.
The band launch headlong into ‘The Wait’, much to the delight of the crowd. Jaz prowls the stage like a caged animal, shaking his fist and an gabbing an accusatory finger into the air. His voice is haunting and it seems to resonate in empty cavities within my chest. Pylon is an album about the frighting rise of technology and the effects it is having on our collective identity. Every song they play tonight from the album is layered with an anxious terror, an anticipation of something beyond human control. Jaz talks of Syrian refugees being washed up on shore, of 9/11, of the corruption in our current political system, and it is all too real and even frightening.
Despite the doom and gloom, the band really manage to have a good time, and thank the crowd at any given opportunity. Jaz even has an amusing little boogie during some songs, like ‘Eighties’ (which he dedicates to Kurt Cobain) and ‘I Am The Virus’. I very much enjoy his post-punk grandpa moves.
After a fantastic, lively encore of ‘Turn To Red’, ‘War Dance’, and ‘Pandemonium’, the only complaint I have is that they never played ‘Love Like Blood’. What can I say, I’m a sucker for the hits. After all these years, Killing Joke still reign victorious as masters of terror music, and can now boast a UK official number 1 album in the rock charts. They are deserving of every cheer as they exit stage left, and I am incredibly excited to catch them next time.