Dystopian Nights

Wry doomsaying suddenly sounds more credible than ever.

By transmitting Hosannas From the Basements of Hell, some proud products of the industrial revolution (of 1979) valiantly set the roof, the roof, the roof on fire. Destroyed in Killing Joke's disco-metal inferno is the same irony curtain that obscured the band and similar doomsayers in the roaring '90s. Yet despite frequent references to these times as the new Dark Ages, an overall ominous timbre, and the dorky lyric "Orwellian, Machiavellian, Hegelian dialectic world management," nary an electric eye in the sky knowingly winks. Evidently, as Picasso's Guernica spreads beyond the frame and across the globe, electro-Euro-thrash no longer reflexively trips the light sarcastic.

Backed by two longtime contributors and co-founder–guitarist Geordie Walker, original frontman Jaz Coleman happily assumes the role of spiritual drill sergeant here. Your first step off the turnip truck is into his gaping mouth, an instrument that, unlike the average suburban Satanist's, never sinks into gravelly incoherence but steadily rings loud and clear. Similarly, almost every song belabors a simple, effective groove—perhaps for that working-class-friendly assembly-line feel, though more likely to generate dancefloor transcendence. The quartet takes a long ride on the quicksilver chug that both offsets the title track's haunting blues bounce and fuels the melodic avalanche of "Implosion." The delicate, snappy beat that drags Walker's clanging ax in circles on "The Lightbringer" (a paean to "the rebellious spirit in you and me") gets toughened up by choppy, shimmery atmospherics on "Gratitude." Three-note jams extend both tunes.

Oh, you wish he was being sarcastic
photo: Joe Dilworth
Oh, you wish he was being sarcastic

Sprawling across the expanse of the disc is a single indigo synth line. The resultant epic mood furnishes Coleman's rants with the significance of profundity they sorely lack. We all know the barbarians are no longer merely at the gates, Jaz. Authorizing illegal wars, conspicuously consuming, and rewriting sacred texts, homeboys have been chillin' in the TV room for a while now.

 
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