That word gets thrown around a lot - but it's entirely appropriate for Killing Joke. This song here is their "calling card" - I'm sure you've heard it... but pretend it just started playing on the radio today...
That sound... the driving thrum of Geordie's signature riffs... it's pure Killing Joke. But it's not what prompted me to write this post.
Believe it or not, they've been releasing albums slowly over the years - right up until last year - exploring different formats and beats, yet still remaining true to the formula of Jaz Coleman's gravelly/nasal scream riding over the rhythmic thrashing of guitarist Geordie's signature sound.
If you've never really listened to the band - and you like "Rock" (with the capital R in there) - do yourself a favor and give a listen. Pick any album you like (although their latest release is one of my favorites). A documentary was filmed in 2003 wherein Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters, Nirvana) described working with the band (he did the Drums on their eponymous 2003 album)
Deftones, Nine Inch Nails, Ministry, KMFDM - any rock/industrial band with a dance tilt will typically cite Killing Joke as a major influence. With their very first release (once again, an eponymous title) Killing Joke took synth pop and dragged it back into the hard-driving punk movement that was popular at the time (late 70s, early 80s).
The album is tricky - you never know where a song is going to go and if you assume "oh this is a poppy, synth song" - you'll quickly be fooled.
Requiem, for instance, starts off with typical Adrian Belew synth riffs and all of a sudden here comes Jaz's signature wailing right over the top, destroying the bubble gum formula of the time, stripping pretense from the song, punching you right in the ear drums. The album is a must-have for metal fans:
Over time their sound went much darker with Jaz Coleman utterly fixated on Revelations and the end of the world. This led to one of their mid-eighties masterpieces of Goth/Rock - Love Like Blood:
Even with the dark, goth overtones they're still Killing Joke to the core. Geordie sits perfectly in his element and while Jaz pontificates the coming of the end.
I still remember the release of Pandemonium - an album which took them deep into Techno/Thrash/Trance territory. You could mix those terms up and say "Industrial" but it's truly not. Their are very little signature "Industrial" sounds to this album - it's just revved up Killing Joke pivoting on a droning base line, weaving in Jaz's lyrics. The album isn't the group's best, but some songs just can't be ignored - like Millenium:
They Just Released Their Best
This, to me, is the power of Killing Joke's sound. With their latest album,
Absolute Dissent (Spotify Link) the band returns squarely to their roots. In fact, the band reunited after the death of their bassist in 2007 (Paul Raven) and, in effect, did Absolute Dissent as a bit of a tribute album. Released in 2010, it sounds almost eerily like it was released in 1983 - but "in a good way".
The production of the album is sub-par, giving it a bit of a garage feel. But it doesn't go so far that you want to turn it off and in fact, I think it adds an interesting "Instagram-y Filtered View" of the songs. I've been listening to the album non-stop and bought it the minute it was released.
So, if you don't know the band and need a place to start -
this is your album (iTunes link). The song that stands out to me is "In Exelsis" - a little bit of Zeitgeist mixed with a pinch of nostalgia, this is the band at their very best (warning - some scenes are a tad graphic):