Reviewed by Christopher Gray, Fri., Dec. 16, 2005
What's THIS for ...? (Virgin)
What a conspicuous time for Killing Joke to reappear on the shelves. Some selections from the Londoners' first two LPs, released 1980 and '81: "Bloodsport," "Primitive," "Butcher," and their hit if you can call it that "Wardance." Not exactly Chopin, but music this dark, twisted, and imposing holds its own nefarious allure. Virgin's reissues of Killing Joke, What's This for ...?, Revelation, and live Ha! (the latter two both 1982) make it clear that Killing Joke crossed the line early on from post-punk into something altogether more threatening, with many others following in their wake. How Ministry managed to get away with "Land of Rape and Honey" in light of Revelations' "Land of Milk and Honey" is curious, and you can practically see the light bulb going off over a young Trent Reznor's head many times. Industrial may not have been an official genre when these albums came out, but the music grinds, slogs, roils, and growls so much it's hard to think of another word to describe it. Except maybe "abject." Killing Joke and What's THIS for ...? evoke smokestacks belching, gears grinding, trains rumbling, pistons clattering ... yep, industrial. Heavy, and how, but not quite cohesive enough to be metal. Faster, sleeker, Revelations incorporates more keyboards and dance rhythms "We Have Joy" is even robotically catchy further fleshing out their grim tableau. Ha! is a stomach-punching translation into the live arena, guitars and drums locked in a diabolical duel to the death. You were perhaps expecting flowers?
(Killing Joke, What's THIS for ...?)