Things You Might Have Missed 2012: Killing Joke – MMXII

In the most literal sense of the word, Killing Joke is unstoppable. For over 30 years, these guys have persevered through lineup changes, record label shenanigans, at least one apocalypse, and the death of longtime bassist Paul Raven. MMXII is the follow-up to 2010’s awesome Absolute Dissent, which reunited the original lineup of the band.

KJ’s sound has always veered between the organic and the synthetic, and it so happens that on MMXII the pendulum swings slightly in favor of keyboards and trancelike rhythms. Opening cut “Pole Shift” takes its sweet-ass time going anywhere, keeping things fairly mellow for a couple minutes before finally kicking in. Tracks like “Primobile” and “In Cythera” update the cold, claustrophobic synths they explored in the late ’80s, and “Rapture” is panicked techno not far off from their Pandemonium era. And album closer “On All Hallow’s Eve” may be too goth for it’s own good — The Misfits and Type O are undefeated in the “songs about Halloween” category, and that’s not about to change anytime soon.

There’s still plenty of guitar-fueled heaviness though. “Fema Camp” is a clever twist on the groove of Zeppelin’s “When The Levee Breaks” (and its subject matter too, come to think of it). “Corporate Elect” is of the same lineage as “Another Bloody Election” and “Money Is Not Our God,” a straightforward battle cry led by a gigantic riff and a vicious tirade from frontman Jaz Coleman. And “Colony Collapse” is fucking massive — imagine Sabbath’s “Children Of The Grave” being played by a fascist army marching across some frozen wasteland.

Coleman has been gleefully preaching the end-time message for three decades, and shows no sign of stopping now. He still sings like Lemmy frozen in a block of ice, and the years have done nothing to calm his fury about the state of the world. Guitarist Geordie remains one of the classiest six-stringers in rock, capable of tasteful subtlety as well as sonic devastation. Predictably, bassist Youth and drummer Paul Ferguson are as rhythmic and crushing as they were back in 1980, if not moreso.

Interestingly, MMXII was completely fan-funded through PledgeMusic (it’s kinda like Kickstarter for bands). Given KJ’s history with record labels, it’s no shock that they decided to move on without one, and the results are clearly a success. MMXII spares no expense on the production values, and is actually easier to track down than some of KJ’s past work (good luck finding Extremities, Dirt, and Various Repressed Emotions anywhere). If PledgeMusic is the model for how music will eventually be funded and released, then I certainly have no complaints.

Ever since 2003’s self-titled comeback, Killing Joke has been cranking out the best music of their career, and MMXII is another solid addition to their catalog. It’s a bit of a grower, and doesn’t contain any instant classics like “Asteroid” or “The Great Cull.” But given some time to digest, MMXII still packs a fair amount of awesomeness. If you’re a fan of the band, it’s more than worthy of your time. And if you only know of Killing Joke as “those guys Metallica covered,” it’s time to find out what you’ve been missing– and MMXII is about as good a place to start as any.

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