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Killing Joke's Pandemonium composed of eclectic mix

Pandemonium

Killing Joke.

Big Life/Zoo Entertainment.

By Brian Hoffman

Imagine the late Seventies: Out of the burnt wreckage of disco climbed music with a harsh new sound - the dawn of the industrial era. Four London musicians banded together to form Killing Joke. These four stood in stark contrast to a barren landscape of the musically pointless, bursting onto the London music scene with their first EP Nervous System (Malicious Damage) and again in 1980 with their self-titled album Killing Joke (Malicious Damage/Polydor UK).

Killing Joke has influenced groups such as Nine Inch Nails (Trent Reznor), Ministry (Alain Jourgensen and Paul Barker), and Voivod. The band, originally Jaz Coleman on vocals and keyboards, Geordie on guitar, Youth on bass, and Big Paul on drums in their 1978 debut, has changed its lineup over the years. Paul Raven (now with Prong) on bass, and Martin Atkins (Ex-P.I.L., Murder Inc., currently with Pigface) on drums have previously played for the band. For their new Big Life/Zoo Entertainment release, Pandemonium, Jaz, Geordie, and Youth have reunited with Geoff Dugmore on drums to produce a truly eclectic sound.

Much of Killing Joke's latest release is characterized by guitar-laden tracks with a hard driving beat and suffused with keyboard: It sounds remarkably similar to some Skinny Puppy tracks in terms of sheer noise content. On some tracks, Jaz's relentless vocals spawn echoes of N. Ogre's efforts on Skinny Puppy's Too Dark Park. In song construction, some Pandemonium tracks bear a striking resemblance to Ministry's productions, or some of the remixes on Nine Inch Nails' Fixed, with their use of excessive repetition.

Track one on Pandemonium, entitled "Pandemonium", shows hints of Middle Eastern and Asian influences. An elegant construction, evoking images of birds darting in flight, this track may be described as a tapestry woven from high guitar, vocals, keyboard, and a complex mixture of percussion.

In "Exorcism," however, Killing Joke counters "Pandemonium" with an industrial-metal construction very much like "N.W.O." or "Just One Fix" from Ministry's Psalm 69. The hard-driving beat and guitar licks in "Exorcism" would make this a great track, except that it lasts seven and a half minutes. In this respect, "Exorcism" resembles the remix of "Wish" on Nine Inch Nails's Fixed - eventually they need to just shut up and get on to the next song.

"Millennium" finally brings a fairly normal metal production with plenty of low guitar, interspersed keyboards, and a melodic chorus. Killing Joke then returns with a very Middle Eastern-sounding track called "Communion," which mixes a variety of percussion with a new guitar sound to create a distinctive industrial-esque texture.

Further signs of experimentation from the band are evident through the album, but some songs encounter limited success. "Black Moon," in its guitar rhythms and sound oddly resembles Ned's Atomic Dustbin. The chorus stands out as one of the better sections of this track, while stereo keyboard effects help to flesh out the tune. The only complaint lies with the vocals slightly clashing with the sound of the rest of the tune. Killing Joke nearly manages a ballad in "Pleasures of the Flesh." The music in "Pleasures of the Flesh" serves more as background noise, with the lyrics in the forefront.

Great keyboard patterns throughout "Labyrinth," coupled with some distinctive guitar work make it an excellent song. An especially intricate keyboard introduction helps set the stage for the remainder of the track. The keyboard and guitar patterns repeat ( la common industrial style) during the song; but here, unlike "Exorcism", the repetition works because "Labyrinth" doesn't drag on as long, and the melodic patterns shift throughout the song. "Jana" sounds a lot like something that Ned's Atomic Dustbin would have produced. Although one can hardly miss the similarity to Ned's, Jana somehow manages to have a sound all its own - unlike Ned's or any other tracks on Pandemonium.

Love it or despise it, "Whiteout," stands apart from the rest in its KMFDM-esque industrial-hardcore-techno-metal sound - a very cool track, if you like KMFDM's style. "Mathematics of Chaos," the final track on the album, probably inspired the fractal decoration on the inside of the CD lyric booklet. The mixing on this song makes it sound like everyone stood a little too far from their microphone, but other than the minor audio quality shortcoming, this tune succeeds with a good beat, some industrial sounding guitar, and an social poignancy that questions the listener about human nature: "Where is your love, my loving God? / Globalism and the U.N. neutralized by ethnic / Cleansing / Animal aggression and a mind to perceive this terminal conflict."

On the whole, with Pandemonium Killing Joke has produced an eclectic collection of music styles in 10 tracks and still managed to unify them into a coherent whole, each stamped with the distinctive sound of the band. Pandemonium may take several listenings to get used to if you are not already a Killing Joke fan, but it's definitely worth getting. On a 10 point scale, with Garth Brooks at 0 and Nine Inch Nails at 10, Pandemonium rates a 9.