2012 is turning out a great Killing Joke year. Again. As pledger, I already downloaded the fantastic live album Down By The River. And now there’s the second album of the re-united original line-up of the band. Although the resurrected formation already produced the compelling Absolute Dissent in 2010, it seems they have truly blended all they were, are and will become on the majestic MMXII. The band keeps looking behind the wave of changes but they do not only feel the future taking shape, they help shaping it themselves. And as I understood from an interview by Jaz, that includes doing a little wardance with faith and destiny by organizing an end-of-the-world music festival by the end of MMXII in New Zealand. Who says they don’t have humour?
My first impressions were that MMXII has the philosophical fierceness of Pandemonium (1994), the political views of the highly underrated Democracy (1996), the melodic beauty of Night Time (1984) and some fuzzmetaldronepulsarbeats blasting through your brain alike Killing Joke (2003). It doesn’t have the explicit, outstretched, introspective anthems of Hosannah From The Basements Of Hell but incorporates trance and the feeling of what it means to be Killing Joke in the ever-present anger and virulent indignation found throughout their collected works.
But that won’t do to describe the richness of MMXII. The album has much variety and subtleties, and that’s being brought in by every band member; lyrics, vocals, synths, guitars, bass and drums. For the latter let’s be grateful once more for the glorious return of Big Paul! But the complete band is outstanding, clearly lifting each other up to new heights. MMXII sounds very dynamic, with its clear mix, its fade in-outs, the use of echo and backings of all sorts. It brings much joy to my heart as the sound balance shows what a great singer Jaz is, and how brilliantly Geordie masters his guitars; 2 aspects of Killing Joke that were frequently lost in the mix of previous albums in my opinion. The songs themselves don’t only swirl around Youth’s bass playing, the complete record is full of change, in rhythms, in tempo, in atmosphere and in pace. And somehow the band has managed to greatly melt their live playing urge with knob turning production demands.
MMXII mirrors a state of the world. I sure hope the world will last a bit longer than the end of 2012, so I can witness further evolutions of Killing Joke. This is rock music in a great guise; deviant, evil, melodic, driven, convincing.
The single In Cythera refers to idyllic times and charms, the lyrical theme equally reflected in the musical textures. Does it also suggest that Killing Joke aims at revitalizing their heavy, overloaded interpretation of rock music into a less severe appearance, like French painter Antoine Watteau did with old school baroque via rococo touches? Or is the desire for romanticism rather something for later, more after-world times, as the lyrics might hint at? A last goodbye to Paul Raven, the Raven King? We’ll meet again. At the greatest banquet in the world, a bottle of wine with some bread and cheese somewhere on a beach. To live like kings & queens?
Check out the video interview of Jaz Coleman on the album, and the band’s intent to respect the ancient calendars: