Frontman Jaz Coleman is a composer, architect, novelist, philosopher, and squeezes in time to tour all over Europe for three months with a band called Killing Joke, who are an inspirational band like no other.
Warming up for Killing Joke at O2 Academy in Bristol on Monday, March 5th was Seattle alternative/indie/rock band The Crying Spell. They are Len Hotrum – vocals and guitar, Eric Snyder – guitar, Chase Culp – drums, and Jason Phraner – bass guitar. The band played a very tight, faultless and professional set in a sold out Bristol venue which started to fill rapidly once they had taken to the stage.
They carried off an excellent seven-song set and were very well received by what is normally a staunchly patriotic Killing Joke fan base. The Crying Spell sound appears to have evolved from the bands self released album in 2010 Through Hell To Heaven as part of the bands current three-year journey.
The band openly admitted to being heavily influenced by British bands like Depeche Mode, Gary Numan, The Cure, but also rock bands like Iron Maiden. The 2010 album also saw the band bravely carry out their own rendition of “How Soon Is Now?” by The Smiths. Front man Hotrum further shared with the crowd that one of the aims of the band was to make it to the U.K. where their influences lie.
The current sound certainly gives a nod towards some of those bands, but maybe it was New Yorkers The Bravery (QRO album review) that struck the closest similarity on occasions. The sound was maybe not the traditionally heavy rock or industrial artists who would normally open for Joke, but the band certainly conquered and were doing brisk business at the merchandise stall afterwards signing copies of their new album Disgraceland.
In Hotrum, the band has literally a giant of a frontman at well over six foot, with his bleached locks and charisma encouraging audience participation. Clearly a band refusing to go through the motions, Hotrum shocked security by leaping off the stage and joining the audience on the floor, much to the delight of those in the front.
Eric Snyder rounded the sound off with his beautiful ivory guitar alongside the animated Jason Phraner on bass guitar and Culp clearly having a great time behind his drum kit lashing away on the skins and grinning from ear to ear.
The Crying Spell is a band that needs to be heard. Killing Joke has given them a support slot that will see them play numerous dates up and down the U.K., but also an equally thorough European tour. Well worth heading from the pub slightly earlier to take in an act, who should return to Europe in the near future to do their own headline tour.
There was a crushing air of anticipation as the familiar backing music played from an empty dry ice filled stage with an array of instruments upon it. These same instruments that would soon be conjuring up all sorts of emotions the original Killing Joke line-up would produce.
However, this was not going to be a ‘greatest hits’ set list, as this band defy all the odds and continue to produce albums that continue to impress. Not just OK albums to fill a devoted fan’s record collection, but music to not only keep those fans happy, but also retain their integrity as a band that refuse to buckle to the system and play the mainstream. Killing Joke have never been a punk band to bang out simplistic messages and two minute thrashing guitars and yelling down a mic – there is always a message that contains words to inspire and bring about change and well crafted music.
The night’s set list included a well received six tracks from the latest album MMXII by a band who have continually evolved and influenced hundreds of bands whether they are punk, rock, industrial, pop, new wave and so on. The new songs sat comfortably with older favourites and this is credit to Killing Joke and what they can and have achieved over a career spanning 15 albums.
As the final member of the group and enigmatic front man Jaz Coleman enters the fray, it is a track “European Super State” from the bands critically acclaimed 2010 album Absolute Dissent that opened proceedings. Coleman decked out in a black boiler suit, painted face and a daubed crucifix on his forehead, just visible under the black hair, of this leader who has commanded a fiercely loyal fan base for the best part of the last 33 years.
Most eyes remained transfixed on Coleman as his wild eyes stared wildly like a mad man, arms reaching out in time with Paul Ferguson’s ritual drumming, before what appeared to be the miming of grabbing a member of the crowds thumping heart and grimacing as he did so. During “Unspeakable” from the bands 1981 album – What’s This For……!, Coleman convulsed as though fitting on stage, but far more aggressively than any front man from Joy Division could.
Next was an offering from the latest album which Coleman shared was a “state of grace,” and the mosh pit below picked up into a frenzy as “Rapture” blasted out causing mayhem to suggest people were dancing as though the end was indeed near with the audience reaching hands heavenwards.
Coleman joked that a good friend of his went hunting listening to the next Killing Joke track, which seemed the rattle the odd cage of Mohawk clad punks and any budding animal liberators. Coleman grinned wildly as the mainly instrumental “Bloodsport” from the 1980 début album saw the rest of the band take the limelight with a track that shakes the core, refusing to let go until the listener gives in to one of Killing Joke’s most danceable tracks. “How does it feel to be on the bottom of the food chain?” mocked a gleeful Coleman as he strutted around the stage.
Throughout Geordie Walker, surely one of the finest guitarists of this generation, allowed his golden Gibson ES-295 guitar to flow and curl around those present. Geordie produced a very cool and relaxed performance with lots of open chords and ringing open strings. In between songs would be spent drinking from a wine bottle, before creating further swirling riffs which swept the rammed sold out crowd along.
“Polarsize” spelled out a further apocalyptic message. Although Coleman acknowledged that Martin ‘Youth’ Glover the bass player was far more optimistic suggesting a mere nuclear war was probably more likely. Youth, a bass player who has enjoyed wider success during his times away from Killing Joke as a very successful producer of the iconic album Urban Hymns by The Verve and others including Depeche Mode, Primal Scream, Siouxsie and the Banshees, PM Dawn, The Shamen, and The Orb.
After lying in hibernation, Killing Joke resurrected the track “Chop-Chop” from the 1982 album Revelations, with Ferguson’s relentless beats from his drums and the clunking tones from Reza Udhin keyboards. Things appeared to be getting messy down below in the throng that bounced around as one. Males, who should know better, were starting to dispose of their shirts as the heat and climatic songs reigned down.
There were no ballads as such, but now and again the tempo would ease, before smashing through with bullet force. “Will they ever stop drilling for oil?”, declared Coleman, patiently leaving the question there waiting for a reply. There was none, so with a yell of “Change!”, the band launched into another of their more danceable tracks, once remixed by Spiral Tribe and giving Youth and Udhin permission to lead the mosh pit along in one single mass of pogoing.
New track “Corporate Effect” saw Coleman literally spitting with absolute disgust and anger the lyrics to this. He appeared disappointed by the waning frenzy of the crowd, who appeared slightly spent following the popular, but ridiculously high tempo and speed of “Asteroid”, a relatively new Killing Joke anthem from the self titled 2003 album.
This respite was short lived as Killing Joke ended the set with a couple of old classics “The Wait” and “Psyche”.
The encore saw Coleman return to the stage on his own, waiting for the rest of his band to arrive. “I may as well take my time and finish my cup of tea,” as he sat himself down in front of the drums, before finally being joined on stage by the others.
A couple of tracks were played during the successful encore with “This World Hell” accompanied by a very impressive lit up disco glitter ball, which shone from the darkness above Ferguson.
Things ended with the familiar notes from Udhin’s keyboards announcing the entrance of “Requiem” and the conclusion of yet another display that after all this time, Killing Joke’s music and live shows should not be ignored. Go along to the next gathering, before Coleman comes to get you!
Killing Joke’s album MMXII is due for release on 2 April
European Super State
Sun Goes Down
The Great Cull
This World Hell
Tue 13 March U.K. Newcastle Academy
Wed 14 March U.K. Wolverhampton Wulfrun Hall
Fri 16 March U.K. Portsmouth Pyramids
Sat 17 March U.K. Oxford Academy