The common cynic could write off Killing Joke’s return as yet another addition to the never-ending retro-bandwagon, but the original line-up emerge fiery and abrasive as if marching from the maw of a volcano. Legendary producer Youth (The Orb, The Verve) returns to his roots as bassist in the band that made him whilst maintaining tight reigns in the control booth. Jaz Coleman’s vocals howl beyond the lupine on the likes of Fema Camp, tearing through songs of socio/ecological anxiety which threaten to be awfully cliche from a hoary old punk band (Corporate Elect’s anti-capitalism surprises no one). But this is an album that rewards looking past the sulphurous noise.
In case you needed help getting under the crust of what exactly is troubling Coleman, weblinks are referenced under the lyrics in the booklet. This blatant spelling-out of a manifesto used to spoil the fun but in 2012, he recognises attention spans are shorter. He’s just making sure we got the message. Geordie Walker’s guitars sound just as corrosive as he was on Eighties back in ’84. Occasionally, such as on Rapture, the ‘Joke retreat to an over-familiar punk-metal headspace, but that’s as weak as MMXII gets. Opener Pole Shift, armed with Youth’s smokey scene-setting, hides an onslaught of classic heavy riffing, and gravelly screams. Then there’s the almost hilarious catalogue of mystical, spiritual and violent metaphors. Closer On All Hallow’s Eve reveres the dead (as in our ancestors, not gauche zombies) in rather optimistic tone making the mystic circle complete. A surprisingly well-rounded return, MMXII is a masterful hammering of metal against the intellect.
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