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.