Genre: Post-Punk, Industrial Metal
Producer: Tom Dalgety
Released: October 23rd, 2015
Despite having basically invented the industrial music genre and also influencing bands like Nine Inch Nails, Metallica and Nirvana, the British Killing Joke has never achieved mainstream recognition excluding one single in 1985. On the other hand, the band has never seemed too disgruntled about it; having chugged forward like a ghost train full of angered spirits of punk rockers spewing out social commentary beyond the grave for over 30 years now, with no signs of stopping.
With each record the band seems to shift into higher gear, slowly turning their industrial-flavoured post-punk into a feverish locomotive of death; the vocalist Jaz Coleman growling criticism at modern society, accompanied by heavily distorted cold guitars, fierce tribal-influenced drums and atonal synths. However, for the last few albums the band seems to have stalled; stuck going around the same set of tracks over and over again, with no railroad switch in sight. On their fifteenth studio album Pylon their craft has become routined and listless. The band still storms on with their usual vim and vigor, but like in marrying one’s cousin, there’s something uncomfortably familiar about the whole process. The songs sound so similar to the content of their previous albums that I actually had to repeatedly check my Spotify wasn’t on shuffle. The subject material is also interchangeable, with the song titles like “War On Freedom”, “I Am The Virus” and “New Cold War” seemingly conjured by blindly grabbing a handful of Fridge Poetry: Punk Edition magnet pieces and slapping them randomly on the table. Even the album cover image, consisting of the titular radio towers, recycles the theme from 2010’s Absolute Dissent. Though I do want to give this cover credit for arranging the towers like a nice kaleidoscopic star.
Only a few tracks manage to carve out their own identities: the opening number “Autonomous Zone” creates a great juxtaposition with its energetic instrumentation and robotic choruses; “New Jerusalem” is elevated above the rest with its ferocious drumwork. Interestingly, among all the aggression and speed, the softer and more somber tracks stand out as the brightest: “Euphoria” gives the spotlight to long vocal notes, while “Big Buzz” tones down the guttural growling and the guitar distortion, creating a sound more reminiscent of the band’s eighties material.
On their fifteenth studio recording Killing Joke seems to be on complete autopilot, with the result being adequate, but like the American easter egg market after Kinder got banned, completely void of surprises. If you’re new to the band, this album is as good place to start as any. However, if you’ve listened to any of their albums from the past ten years, Pylon doesn’t really offer anything new.