Busy month, April. Record Store Day went back to its regular slot, Oxford stalwarts Desert Storm released Death Rattle and launched it with a gig (OK, that was March 31st but it’s close enough) and there was the tiny morsel of news that METALLICA DROPPED 72 SEASONS ON US.

But Metallica is too big a deal to blog share so they’ll get their own post another time.

Until then, some ugly beauties.

Like Empire State Bastard.


Let’s take a moment or ten to revel in the sheer class of that band name because it’s surely the best of the year, if not the decade. The track itself is pure Dead Cross on first listen – punk metal hardcore, jammed with tempo shifts and grinding riffs at pace.

But who’s driving Empire State Bastard? Only Mr Dead Cross Driver himself, Dave Lombardo. How good is that? He’s not the only big name either because Biffy Clyro and Oceansize are feeders for the rest of the line-up – Simon Neil and Mike Vennart do vox and guitar, just way harder than you’d imagine. Ace. Harvest video this way.

While we’re in a Lombardo state of mind, don’t forget his new solo album Rites of Percussion, just released on Ipecac.


Lurching noise rock for subterraneans, Rot sounds like the slow decay its title suggests. Driven by the kind of monstrous bass that the late Caleb Scofield laid down for Cave In and Zozobra, Rot neither needs, wants nor gives a fuck about air, daylight and all that other lovely stuff. Nope, it’s a grimy beating of infernal industrial sludge decomposed by assorted guys from Three Trapped Tigers, Sex Swing and, get this, Therapy? – Andy Cairns lends a buried howl. Jaaw Rot: yours if you want it.

KILLING JOKE – Full Spectrum Dominance

Released in March ahead of Killing Joke’s Royal Albert Hall gig, Full Spectrum Dominance is both exactly like any other recent KJ track and somehow new sounding. Don’t know how they keep pulling off this sleight of hand but they do. There IS nothing new. But it sounds so great. Dark arts indeed.

So, Full Spectrum Dominance churns that dense, deceptively heavy power we love so much and adds just a little more mid 80s throwback with ghost-ish keyboards and softer vocals in the verse. And though it’s a headphones track for sure – check that bass separation when you’re plugged in – the chorus is built for a slamming live audience. Is this the most pure distillation of modern-day Killing Joke into a single track? It might just be.

SILVER MOTH – Mother Tongue

Psych folk and fuzz guitar combine with piano, sax and multi-layered voices to lay painterly textures brushed with squall. Hints of Espers, perhaps? There’s a menacing edge to one of the guitars as it moves in and out of Mother Tongue’s intricate web and it all feels timeless/ageless, perhaps drawing on the Isle of Lewis spirit where it was recorded.

And though it doesn’t make you think of Mogwai – not this track at least, it’s much more in the electrified folk sphere – Stuart Braithwaite is in the band. Go check it out.


Something completely different to finish with – an infectious, exuberant electro-dance soundclash that namechecks Beyonce and Prince with enough sex and attitude to outdo both. Reminds me of MIA’s Bird Flu but really, I have no frame of reference for this. Bubblegum bursts with filth-o perfection and unshakeable groove. As Richards says, POP IT. Or not…

’til next time!

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind
amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind


LOVE. WAR. BECAUSE. VIRUS. Those are the first four tracks: Love Like Blood, Wardance, The Fall of Because, I Am The Virus. Funny how random words can sound timely.

Then again, Killing Joke track titles always do, and 2022 seems to be exactly the right time to see them. War, COVID, climate, hyper communication, they’re all fuel to the agitated perma-tension backdrop that is the KJ MO. Their time is now. Same as it ever was.

In Hammersmith for the last date of the current tour, it’s Love Like Blood that gets rolled out first, and even if we didn’t see The Big One being launched that fast, it’s a euphoric shot of unity to kick things off. Wardance cuts through next, then The Fall of Because. Which is, as ever, total psychosis. All rhythm and no groove, it tells you just how awkward and dissonant that early Killing Joke sound is.

Pylon beast I Am The Virus barks huge, and by this point you’ve got the hang of the gig. You remember what it is that defines KJ live: relentlessness. The volume, the swirling lunacy of Geordie’s guitar, the permanent static, drones and crackle (or is it tinnitus?), the bass and kick drum vibrating your sternum.

What you get live is a version of the band – the heaviest, least varied version. No spacious dub reworks, none of the recent dance-NRG uber anthems like European Super State or Big Buzz, nothing subtle like Primobile, no Ghosts of Ladbroke Grove ebb. It’s a one-dimensional bludgeon to the brink of the chaos.

Other tracks? Requiem, The Death and Resurrection Show, Mathematics of Chaos and Total Invasion are in there, as is The Wait whose tension-packed riff sounds more sinister and paranoid than ever. Best of all though is the apocalyptic This World Hell. Shit me. It’s heavy enough on Absolute Dissent, but here it’s a stop-start juggernaut in flames with a double kick that pummels from the inside out. And while we’re on that point, Big Paul Ferguson is end-to-end phenomenal.

A Bloodsport-Pandemonium encore wraps the night. Triumphant? Yeah, no question. It’s only in the dying seconds of stage time, just before everyone walks off, that Geordie’s face finally shows any expression – a huge smile as the band hug each other and thank the Hammersmith gathering. It belies the abrasion he’s concocted for the previous 90 minutes but this is nothing new. Effortless, expressionless force is his forte. Always has been.

How long can they keep doing their music live in this way? Don’t know, though the Lords of Chaos EP shows no sign of mellowing, not in the studio anyway. Bring on the next long player.

Want more Geordie? Check The Damage Manual

Killing Joke at Hammersmith 2022
Lords of chaos?



When A Perfect Circle did When the Levee Breaks for their eMOTIVe album, they pulled off a smart reworking that stripped it of Zep’s defining feature – Bonham’s heavy authority – and completely rewired it. Instead of thunder, we got rain. Gentle, hypnotic, tinkling rain. It’s a classy, masterful take.

Damage Manual offer no such subtlety on SUNSET GUN, the opening shot from their 2000 EP, 1. The Levee lift is huge.

Which would rightly be condemned as a lack of imagination IF the band didn’t already have 20-plus years of experience, weren’t among the most influential musicians of the post-punk generation, and didn’t convert it into a super-amped contemporary crossover. But they do, they are and they did. A jittery cut-up intro unleashes a Headley Grange-sized beat while a swirling riff channels the Four Symbols Page drone.

Who’s behind this collision of tech-ness and beast rock?

Geordie Walker, Martin Atkins, Jah Wobble, Chris Connelly.

Killing Joke, Public Image Limited, Revolting Cocks.

Damage Manual.

Credentials or what?

The Damage Manual: 1

After that killer start, DAMAGE ADDICT pulls a big-time Wobble with some enormo-dub space bass that bottles the PiL spirit but, crucially, is less cold, less austere. Instead, it carries a real sampler’s vibe. Smell the RevCo.

And with those two tracks, you’re set for the rest of the EP. It does sound like component parts pulled together, but the result is far more organic and flowing than factory line assembly. It zips with fresh edge, psyche trips and beat-heavy production. Whether it was the vigour of the mid/late 90s crossover scenes that re-energised these 40-ish year-olds, I don’t know, but Damage Manual sounds free and vital. Definitely got a kick.

SCISSOR QUICKSTEP discharges mechanised punk over playful bass, while BLAME AND DEMAND is another bass and drum monster where Geordie’s guitar burns hard through early PiL-style rhythms. Possibly the EP’s defining track.

Wrapping up the session before a couple of remixes is LEAVE THE GROUND, an end-of-gig trashing where Connelly’s up-front falsetto falters like gutter Bowie while industrialised rhythms beat the melody down. “More human contact will just make you ill…” is Connelly’s fading refrain. Oddly apt for our COVID-19 days, two decades later. And Geordie is more unleashed here than you’ve ever heard him.

Anyway, that’s it: 1 by Damage Manual. All songs are credited equally to all four players. Sunset, Damage and Blame distil the PiL/RevCo/KJ spirits most obviously, while the other two – remixes excepted – bring the quirk and the range. But what really grabs when you listen to it again is the force of Geordie Walker’s guitar tone. He’s always been His Own Voice, but with Killing Joke on a continuing cycle of top grade albums, it’s easy to forget just how distinctive he is. Seeing KJ live is one way to keep your complacency in check. Hearing him somewhere else – like this – is another.

But I mention Geordie only because his is the parent band I’m most familiar with. Every player here is a full-on personality and you get it all. No-one dominates. No-one sits back. Vital stuff. Prepare to be sucked down a Killing Joke/PiL/Waxtrax sinkhole when you’ve played it.

Damage Manual: 1 (2000, Invisible Records)
Sunset Gun
Damage Addict
Scissor Quickstep
Blame and Demand
Leave the Ground
Bagman Damage
M60 Dub

Damage Manual put a self-titled album out the same year which is equally worth checking. The four remixes on the end dull the album’s impact a bit – perils of the CD age, they’d be better off on a separate disc but the core nine tracks are maximum Damage




It’s 16-11-2018 and we’re just dropping in for a minute to acknowledge one of the greats:

Killing Joke, we salute you.

No, forget that – too much like a symbol of establishment-sanctioned respect. Killing Joke, we REVEL with you, gathering in celebratory chaos against the wrongs of the world order.

Irony is, I can’t get to the O2 tonight so no gathering for me, gotta hope they stick it out for a 42nd anniversary tour. Am instead attending vicariously in real time with a shot of Pylon.

Will the gig be as much of a force as their 2015 Oxford showing?

No-one’s going to bet against it. Somebody tell us what’s happening at KJ four-zero!

Soundtrack to these words: CD 2 of Pylon, Apotheosis and Panopticon stoking a supercharged uplift.

Killing Joke - Pylon


REWIND OCTOBER: Killing Joke@Oxford O2, Oct 30th 2015

A gig-heavy Rewind, this one. Godspeed You! Black Emperor did an artful deconstruction job on everyone at the Warwick Arts Centre the other week, and Liverpool doom trio Coltsblood bulldozed the Wheatsheaf with Undersmile-slow riffs and blastbeat breaks. Godspeed you can read about over here, but Coltsblood? Musically very cool and hefty, but the growlscreamgrowlscream vocal thing … man, it wore me down and brought on a major Doom Burnout. One to come back to another day, methinks.

No such burnout on Friday though when Killing Joke – new album Pylon just one week young – took the O2 stage with an old-new one-two: The Wait and Autonomous Zone, and while it takes a little while for the crowd to warm, mostly coz of the sadistic air-con blasting a cold force-ten in our faces down stage front left, it ain’t long before there’s a ring of slamming jumping bods lapping it up. Killing Joke will always invoke some kind of movement –  there’s just something in that fluid, swirling, awkward rhythm-force that sets their sound far apart from other rock bands and pokes at people’s mania, especially the early stuff. Fall of Because, with its Ferguson-propelled death dance and Coleman’s first cut-loose vocal of the night, STILL feels like madness being conjured.

Highlights? With such vintage on show it’s too subjective a question to answer … depends where and when you entered KJ’s world/they entered yours, but Money Is Not Our God, Eighties, Wardance, Requiem, Asteroooooiiiiid (yesssss), Communion (doubleyesssss) and an encoring Pandemonium are all in there, among others. Other than those, it’s another Pylon newie I am the Virus – future classic, surely – preceded by a pulverising Exorcism that stand out for me, but for anthemic goth pop writ  l a r g e  you cannot top the monster-big Love Like Blood. 

So, plenty of gigs in October (and that’s without getting to see Hawkwind). What else was there?

Well, after last Rewind asked are-Maiden-prog?, who turned up in Prog Rock magazine but Steve Harris, having a big ol’ chat about Genesis, Tull and General Prog love. ‘nuff sed.

David Bowie announced a new single and album. Officially, this is Too Exciting to Write About.

And Audioscope announced their line-up for the all-day bash at the Bully on November 21st. Part Chimp, Guapo, Dave Heumann AND LOADS MORE will stride that small stage, just as we like it.

til next time!

Killing Joke – Kevin Wood reviews the band’s triumphant Zodiac gig

Kevin WoodRemember that gig? I don’t I wasn’t there! Even zodiac is not what it used to be anymore. This review was originally published on BBC Oxford website on 4 May 2006. That’s precisely 7 years ago minus a day to date! Kevin, I think you have some gig review cathing up to do!



Towards the end of the support band’s set, a man in a black jacket brushes past and slips through the swelling crowd towards the side of the stage. No big deal, right? After all, we’re in the Zodiac, it’s gig night and the place is awash with black T-shirts, silhouettes and shadows – there’d be something wrong if it wasn’t. But this geezer is different… he’s wearing a hat. The kind of hat favoured by a certain frontman of a certain gang-of-four who just happen to be playing in this very room within the hour.

Shine a light. It’s Jaz Coleman. And I nearly spilled my Guinness on him.

Most people seem oblivious to the singer’s presence, but one or two aren’t and scuttle off to say hello/get something signed… good old Mr Coleman, that nice friendly bloke from Killing Joke. He’s mellowed, hasn’t he?

Except he hasn’t, no. Not at all. When stage time arrives, it’s a very different Jaz Coleman who emerges. This one – the showman, the shaman, whatever you see fit – sports a faded black boiler suit, streaks of black face paint and the thousand-yard stare of a possessed MC in a circus of crazies. What happened in the last hour? Where did mild Mr Coleman go? Well, never mind all that – it’s time for a gathering, a celebration of life in the shadow of the apocalypse, and Killing Joke are the soundtrack. The Eastern-tinged intro ushers in Communion’s elephantine Kashmir Zep stomp – a stupendous start – before Wardance, Primitive, Total Invasion and Requiem intensify the Zodiac heat.

And yet, despite the wealth of old classics, this performance is more than a mere trek through nostalgia country (anyone holding out for Love Like Blood can head home) because Killing Joke have just dropped a beast of a record on our laps. Dense, uncompromising and vital, Hosannas from the Basements of Hell taps into the original KJ ethos but updates it completely. Gratitude, the first of three songs from the new album, is HUGE – a slow, crawling dirge weighed down by an obese bassline worthy of Godflesh at their most bloated. Bloodsports provides comparatively accessible relief until Hosannas from the Basements of Hell launches a 3-song thrashalong that starts Motorhead-fast and then cranks it up into the realms of fevered dementia. The crowd is off on one, Jaz has been off on one all night, and this is exactly what Killing Joke live are all about – a little bit of chaos, madness and sweat between friends. Unperturbed by it all are guitarist Geordie and bassist Raven, a wizened duo whose physical calm is in direct contrast to the noise they unleash. In direct contrast to them – and let’s face it, he has no choice – is new Joke recruit Benny Calvert, pounding out frantic tribal thrash rhythms on his kit. The unsung hero of the gig? Very very possibly.

Majestic – another stab of urgent paranoia from the new album – is the last of the Hosanna tracks, leaving the band to blast home with high-energy faves like Whiteout, The Wait, Pssyche and Unspeakable, proving beyond all doubt that impending middle age means nothing to Killing Joke. They hit it hard right to the end, closing with a swaggering Pandemonium. It’s a triumphant gig – let’s hope it’s not another 20 years before they return.