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