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Extremities marks Killing Joke's return to form



Killing Joke.

Virgin Records.


PERENNIAL ALTERNATIVE MUSIC favorites Killing Joke recently released Extremities, Dirt, and Various Repressed Emotions, their first new material in about three years. The album comes on the heels of a series of extremely successful "reunion" shows done by Killing Joke in early 1990.

In Extremities, the band manifests a sound almost 180 degrees from that of their last release, 1988's commercial flop, Outside the Gate. That album was characterized by a tinny, synthesizer-enhanced sound, while this release explodes with a seething array of guitar riffs and industrial drum beats.

It is ironic that the band's new sound is remarkably similar to that of the group's eponymous 1980 debut. At that point in time, the punk sound of the late '70s was starting to die, and the European techno-pop sound was beginning to burst into the music scene. Killing Joke was the first band to interweave heavy, guitar-laden riffs with keyboard and percussion beats to obtain a fresh and addictive sound, a sound which led eventually to the birth of industrial music as we now know it.

Songs like "Requiem," "Complications" and "Wardance" featured vocalist Jaz Coleman's angst-ridden chants coupled with a ferocious backbeat. The band released more albums as years passed;

however, none were as commercially accepted or as musically brilliant as their first record.

In 1985, with the release of Night Time, the band was once again thrust into the spotlight of alternative underground music. This album featured a revamped sound for Killing Joke. The loud, pulsating backbeats were still present, but there also was a haunting, almost gothic flavor to the music. A single from the album Eighties became an anthem for the punk movement of the decade and was even included on Spin magazine's list of the top 100 singles of the 1980s. It seemed that the band would once again be able to entrench itself atop the heap of alternative acts.

However, a series of lukewarm subsequent releases through the mid- to late eighties caused Killing Joke to literally vanish from the music scene with little notice.

In 1990, Killing Joke acquired the services of Ministry drummer Martin Atkins. This seemed to give the band the spark it needed to start over again. First there was a series of remarkably successful reunion shows throughout America and Europe (where, incidentally, the band had remained fairly prominent in spite of their US commercial collapse); then, in August, the band hit the studios to record new material for an album. The result was Extremities, an explosive album marked with a sound that resembles the current industrial stylings of Skinny Puppy, Nitzer Ebb and Ministry.

Atkins' presence is heavy on the album, as is that of guitarist Geordie and the ever-bizarre Coleman on vocals. Throughout the album, Coleman airs his views about evil and the hopelessness of modern society in stunning cuts like "Money is Not Our God," "Age of Greed" and "Intravenous." Coleman's screw-the-world attitude is evident in verses from "Money is Not Our God": "Ten percent of the land is in the hand that pulls the strings. Be the privileged few (to have, to own, to hold) power over people, yes, yes, power over people."

"North of the Border" shows a similar sentiment: "I've tried wearing bright colours to brighten my life but the truth cuts through fashion, it cuts like a knife. Just look at our faces, yes, they say more than words. We're so lost in our problems. We're so lost in our world."

Extremities is extremely difficult to listen to, and at times the songs branch into extended periods of dissonance. Still, the pure energy of the music is hard to top. The din of cuts like "Extremities" and "Solitude" bursts from speakers with an unparalleled intensity.

Needless to say, Extremities is a worthwhile purchase for fans of Killing Joke, the industrial sound, or those open-

minded music lovers who are ready to free themselves from the unending drudge of house music and synth-pop.