Release DetailsLABEL Cooking Vinyl
RELEASED ON 4/18/2006
Hosannas From the Basements of Hell
posted on 4/2006 By:
The enormously influential and criminally underappreciated Killing Joke returns with their second offering since their 2003 comeback effort. While the band’s original self titled debut is universally revered by fans, there seems to be two schools of thought about the 2003 album of the same name. It was the band’s first album since the inconsistent Democracy (1996), and boasted some of the most scathing abrasive heaviness since the incredible Extremities, Dirt & Various Repressed Emotions, released 13 years earlier. Some fans reveled in the band’s focused voracity, which was powered by one Dave Grohl on drums, in one of the more eye raising pairings in recent history. Others found that while the album had aggressiveness to burn, the songs lacked in substance and in the spirit of the band. The good news is that Hosannas From the Basements of Hell finds Killing Joke sounding more like Killing Joke than they have in many years. After more than twenty five years of life, the typically brilliant, occasionally less so, and even sometimes flat (Outside the Gates) Killing Joke are in back in top form again. Hosannas may not quite crack into your shortlist of very favorite ‘Joke albums, but it will certainly fight its way firmly into the category right below, probably with an eye gouge and elbow to the bridge of the nose, in true Killing Joke fashion. Not that the band cares fuck all about fashion, of course.
Thank God for Prague. To hear frontman, co-founder, shaman, and absolute madman Jaz Coleman tell it, the original title for this album was “War Zones”, which gives the impression this album would have followed closely in the contemporary footsteps of the message heavy KJ ’03. But the “where” and the “how” of making the album turned it into something else. The spirit of Prague, a city that’s a haven for artists but possesses tangible dark elements, along with the back to basics attitude and methods for creating Hosannas, did wonders to stoke the embers of the soul of the mighty Killing Joke. Coleman recently said that all KJ songs are essentially about the same thing: “freedom on its various levels and letting the spirit go”. The band is about transcendent revelry in the face of chaos and harsh reality. On “Walking With Gods” the band advises “Fight by day/Fuck by night/Prepare to die at any time”. Rather than a comfortable studio the band recorded in a cellar using old equipment. They worked by day and took in the city, and whatever moved them, by night. Coleman recalls “a stream of beautiful paranoia. Death rings the bell of the astrological clock in Old Town Square, reminding us both of the mortality and approaching cataclysm. Grinning at the joyous spectacle of it all. Hosannas!” That reaction to the cognition of the inevitable, both as a natural progression of life and as a deserved end for a rotten, diseased global society, is key to the ethos and passion of Killing Joke. Sometimes the best you can do is laugh. A tortured grimace is twisted into grotesque grin, as “gatherers” revel in the bare chested, tribal fire dancing. Camaraderie and bloodshed, the nobility of savagery.
THAT’S the spirit of Killing Joke, and its rejuvenation is what makes all the difference in world on Hosannas From the Basements of Hell. Over its uncommonly long life the band’s creative path has taken them in an equally uncommon number of stylistic directions, and this effort, whether due to the band’s revitalized passion or the recent twenty fifth anniversary celebrations (partially documented by a live album and companion DVD), revisits many moments throughout the band’s glorious history. “Invocation” is a lush, hypnotic trip that uses Eastern tribal rhythms and occasional orchestration that recalls Pandemonium’s “Communion”. The nine minute “The Lightbringer” initially feels like a continuation of “Asteroid”, but the trance inducing club rhythms have more to do with Night Time (1985) with a splash of What’s THIS For...! (1981). “Majestic”, with its fat, loping basslines (Raven is in fantastic form!), noisy ascending Geordie guitar riff could be a long lost Extremities cut. The varied approaches can lead to occasional consistency issues, which will be more apparent to the new listener. Most notably, the percussion and keys give “Implosion” a distinct 80's flavor that is partially out of context. Other similarities to days past run rampant, but Killing Joke aren’t handing out reheated and diluted leftovers from the glory days; the band has successfully tapped into those periods and combined them with the virulent roar of today’s voice. And quite simply, the band is firing on all cylinders. Geordie’s one of a kind wall of dissonance is more organic and impassioned this time around, and new drummer Benny Calvert has continued the youthful energy initially injected by Grohl. As noted, bassist Paul Raven doesn’t place a wrong finger. And Coleman himself is in vintage form. The fire is unquestionably there, and his more raspy delivery in recent years is better captured in the mix. The album’s production is more organic, which typically leaves him sounding like he’s shouting like mad to get out from under the pulsing mania of the band.
If not for a few scattered less impressive and/or overlong moments that just barely fail to keep the pace, this would be an essential Killing Joke album. As it is, it teems with some of the best KJ songs in years. Tracks like “Judas Goat”, “Walking With Gods”, and the title track are worth the price of admission alone, and there are just as many others that fans will debate deserve top billing. “This Tribal Antidote” is a pleasingly celebratory start to the proceedings, but it’s not until song two, the title track, that it’s clear that Hosannas offers something special. The track oozes a dark, manic energy (“I harbor thoughts of killing you/pouring petrol on you and then on me”, “I’m not a murderer yet”) fueled by rampant rhythms, Geordie’s shimmering jagged punctuations, dark and well placed contrasting keyboard lines, and Coleman’s unmistakable narration, part contemptuous roar, part shaman croon. “Walking With Gods” sports the undulating, repetitiveness and snappy rhythms that the band has used for years to construct songs that are simultaneously hypnotic and celebratory. “Judas Goat” is absolutely stunning. A bitter observation of the war (a judas goat is a trained animal that leads its kind to slaughter), the track is undeniably Killing Joke and undeniably exhilarating.
The band that’s influenced countless artists in handfuls of genres has released its best album in years. It’s unfortunate that the only Killing Joke songs many metalheads know is “The Wait”, and that’s only as it was played by Metallica. It’s not too late for them to remedy their transgressions. To hear this essential band in such lethal form after all these years is a jaw dropping thrill. Hosannas!
Register to post comments.