Review & Photography by Manny Manson for MPM
So, tonight Nottingham is a veritable hive of activity. Its three main venues are all hosting formidable talent.
The Motorpoint has Royal Blood, that young Drum and Bass duo, the Rescue Rooms have American blues guitar legend Eric Gales, but it’s to my old favourite, Rock City, that I’m heading to, for tonight it hosts Notting Hills band of merry men, Killing Joke.
These British punk, post punk, Industrial Rock, legends are here to play to a near sold-out venue on their first headline tour in 3 years aptly named the ‘Honour of Fire’ tour. Having formed in the height of punk-ness(sic) in 1979, yes folks another band that was formed last century. They released their first album ‘Killing Joke’ in 1980. The 1985 single ‘love like blood’ brought them the success that was so deserved.
Their heavier musical style was a key influence in the development of Industrial Rock. Amongst their evolving sound, elements of different genres can be heard such as the synth-pop and the emerging New Wave ‘synth’ sound. Interestingly these ‘styles’ can be traced back to the Sex Pistols through the then husband and wife combo of Westwood and McLaren, the pair being very active in the ‘scene’ at that time.
The band underwent various line-up changes over the years and included a 6yr hiatus, but is now touring once again as the original band. Its not often that after 44yrs we see an original line up treading the boards. They celebrated 40yrs with a worldwide tour back in 2018.
Martin Glover, better known as ‘Youth’ did leave the band early on and was replaced on Bass by Paul Raven, who stayed with them until his sad death in 2007, ‘Youth’ then re-joined the band permanently in 2008 after a couple of brief appearances over the years. Coleman, in a magazine interview explained how the reformation came about at Ravens funeral.
“Everything came together when we all met at Ravens funeral. It was funny the unifying effect it had on all of us. It made us realise our mortality and how important Killing Joke is to us all.”
So, after 20years absence, Paul Ferguson was back on the drums. 2008 again saw a world tour and the ‘Peel Sessions 1979-1981’, an album of 17 live tracks being released in the September of the same year.
Of note, especially at the moment, Foo Fighters Dave Grohl played drums on the second self-titled album Killing Joke (2003). The band have inspired several bands over the years. Including the likes of Metallica, Janes Addiction, Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden, Hetfield has cited Coleman as one of his favourite singers. Walkers guitar has said to be have inspired Kurt Cobain’s guitar style in Nirvana. So, the band are not without note!
Up first is the Anglo-American band ‘The Imbeciles’ This 5-piece put on a sterling show of alternative post punk indie rock. Tonight, we get to hear 7 of songs off their new album Imbecelica which is scheduled for release on May 19th 2022. The new album is produced by ‘Youth’ Killing Jokes very own Bass player. Their first album, ‘Imbeciles’, being released back in February 2020.
With a sound that is full of fuzzy, overdriven guitars and a thumping bass line, the band deliver the goods. Having changed their style of recent years from what was classed as more prog rock to a sound they seem happier with, full of pop punk stabs reminiscent of the Bauhaus era. Butch Dante on guitar seems at home leaving the vocal duties to American John Kent as he belts out the lyrics along-side brutalising the bass as he does so.
With three guitars pushing the songs along, and a thumbing drum beat the delivery seems fresh in an old school kinda way.
Kicking off with ‘The Name of The Rose’ you quickly get what the band are about. The guitars tickle the back of your head as the bassline smacks you squarely in the chest. Kent’s lyrical delivery dances around the melody as he fights with his emotions, stepping back from the microphone he rocks out, who says you can’t have fun in a suit jacket. Smiling as he delivers it clearly the case.
Moving in to ‘Its Not About You’ we see the band tight and on it Dante is smashing out the riff on his 30th Street Guitar with its ‘loud’ paint job, its sound is on the money as next to him Joshua Lattanzi is poised ready to stomp on his effects pedals as he pulverises his 335. ‘Van Man’ is up next and again the band are on it, so are the crowd, arms raised they are totally behind this band as they deliver a stunning set.
Out of the pit it’s time to make notes so I manage to get a vantage point that gives me a good viewpoint. Cross stick on the snare marks the start of ‘Tiny Blue People’, complemented with crashing cymbals, the suited Kent’s bass is thundering, tied in with sunglasses wearing Culbert’s kick drum.
The guitar solo, distorted and dirty leads into a car horn type sound which is repeated, clever stuff and the crowd seem to agree as they cheer wildly as the song finishes. ‘You’re Gonna Wanna’ is up next with a steady vocal start backed with more cross stick and picked guitar, this is soon joined by a distorted bass as the song gallops along. More vocal and picked guitar follows giving it a great indie vibe.
The song then builds strongly as the bass is thrust at the crowd, a distorted shred of guitar madness rips out, it has an almost Japanese style riff as the song builds to a shattering finish.
‘I Won’t Let You Down’ doesn’t as its straight into a percussive driving bass line, the guitars fizzle along in a riff that is as dramatic as it is repetitive. The guitars of Rice and Lattanzi chug as they harmonise with the lyrics, a nice touch as it lifts the song.
One of the guitars has a nice rolling tremolo effect or is a wah wah, I can’t see their feet! The song is full of swirling guitar phasing and dynamic vocal harmonies. With a steady kick drum, the snare builds in velocity as it brings the vocal back after the short musical interlude.
The Wah’s on the guitar continue as the drum beat builds, first slowly, then faster and with more energy as it gets louder, great stick control on the drums give it the much-needed light and shade on such a driven piece. Kent on bass is now rocking out centre stage as the song builds to an abrupt end, just leaving the sound of a decaying guitar riff. Love it, a great tune.
The final song of the set is ‘I’m Not the One’, this has a more upbeat drive to it, its bouncing beat is so different to the previous song that it grabs your attention. The whispered vocal is hard to hear though as the crowd around me have decided to start shouting at each other.
The harmonized vocal repeats the song title as we get to the chorus and then we’re back to that great ‘jangly’ guitar sound that dances along as the bass, unceremoniously hits you firmly in the chest. A genius song choice to end the set, leave the crowd wanting more and they do, as they cheer the band as the set is brought to an end.
After the usual quick turn around by the Rock City crew we are ready for the main act, Killing Joke
Making our way into the pit early, as tripods and cameras have been erected in one third of the area given. Hopefully they won’t get the crowd doing anything silly as getting to them from stage left will be a nightmare. The guys operating them are to hand and seem fully competent in what they’re doing so no complaints there.
After an extended wait we get the band sauntering on stage at 21:10 only 10 minutes past the allotted start so we can forgive them for that. The stage is full of smoke and bathed in that dreaded blue neon light. Us togs are going to have to fight for anything worth publishing tonight it would seem.
From the get go it’s obvious that this is going to be a loud gig, I adjust my ear plugs because even from so close its rattling my fillings. The overwhelming bass line is crushing in its delivery as they start off with ‘Love Like War’ from the 1985 album Night Time. Coleman, in his mechanical way, robotically prowls the stage as he delivers the lyric.
Hair across his face he holds the microphone high above his head as he does so. Geordie has a nonchalant look as he strokes his Gibson, Youth on stage right is crushing with the delivery from his Rickenbacker bass. The keyboards seemingly lost in the mix but helping to grind the brutal bass, and at the back, Ferguson is busy bashing away in almost darkness, his tribal beat ties in with the staccato riff of Geordie as they go into ‘Wardance’, from the 1980 album Killing Joke.
The tom tom work gives the song a great feel, as the almost saw-like riff continues. Coleman is directing the crowd as he poses arms outstretched as they repeatedly shout ‘Wardance’. This is followed by ‘the Fall of Because’ from What’s THIS For..! released in 1981, with its strangled guitar start, and tom tom beatings, Coleman is soon on it with his distressed vocal delivery. Yet again this tune is very repetitive in its musical delivery, you can imagine a great steam punk style machine with giant cogs just rotating for no specific means spewing out things we don’t want or need.
Now out of the pit it’s become obvious that the sound isn’t great, I’ve packed my cameras away and I’m now trying to find a vantage point to hear the band. I eventually settle on behind the sound board, after all that’s where the sound is being mixed.
In that time ‘Honour the Fire’, ‘The Pandys Are Coming’ and ‘We Have Joy’ have all played out. And to be honest it’s sounded like one continuous song. This is by no means a dig at the band in any way, just a sad indication of how poor the sound was. Its far too loud to start with for a ¾ filled venue.
Anyways I manage to find my way with the set list ‘Money Is Not Our God’ from 1990’s Extremities, Dirt and Various Repressed Emotions, chimes up. This sees the stage bathed in blue and green light as Coleman prowls the stage in his designer boiler suit. The bass drone from the stage is of apocalyptical proportions. With distorted riffs from keys and guitar dancing around the thunderous bass of this tortured song about possessions, Coleman, hand on ear bellows out the lyric, Whoas are repeated back by the crowd, as a solid, punishing beat crashes into your chest, the song finishes, brutal!
‘Primitive’ is a trip back to the first self-titled Killing Joke album, is up next which Coleman informs us is about “turning on each other”. A simple bass line again smashes you full in the face as angry drum beats blast out, Youth wanders across the stage as Coleman claws the sky in his mechanical style. Standing where I am my senses are being pummelled as the constant brutal bass delivery abuses my very existence. This would be more enjoyable if the lyric could be heard, sadly its garbled and lost in the mix most times.
Between songs Coleman shouts out ‘just like yesterday when we were teenagers’ and we are into ‘Turn to Red’, which appeared on Absolute Red, a 1979 EP. A keyboard riff bounces over a storm of bass. Coleman is dancing around the stage like a robot holding the mic at 90degrees as he sings into it, his hair, covering his face billows as he does so.
The song is full of phased sounds and an angry bass rumble, the ground is shaking as the hertz filled tsunami sweeps across the floor and bully’s all in its path. ‘Lord of Chaos’, this is from the new EP Lord of Chaos, takes over with its fast-paced drum and bass, Coleman squats as he delivers the vocal in short verses. As the tempo changes, he stands, arms outstretched he begins to postulate to the crowd, harden fans who have followed the band from the beginning are loving every dark riff being delivered.
Chaos is being delivered in spades and as the riff becomes familiar, it takes on a Black Sabbath type edge, Symptom of the Universe one of my all-time favourites off the Sabotage album, it’s not quite the opening riff but its close and its well-controlled by the band.
A guitar randomly strums, as Ferguson addresses the hi-hat as ‘Mathematics of Chaos’, from 1994’s Pandemonium, chirps up. A flourish of crash cymbals and a dirty guitar riff combine to dance over the banging bassline.
The vocal is bathed in ‘echo’ as its cast to the crowd. In front of me a drunk falls over throwing his beer all over the people alongside, he is picked up, shrugs and wobbles off for more as swirls of keys and distorted guitar herald his staggered departure. The guitars are bathed in multiple spotlights as Coleman, stands in bathed in blue, with his back to the crowd, as the song finishes, he taps Geordie on the shoulder with a grin.
A chunky, driving riff cranks up, as ‘The Death and Resurrection Show, from 2003’s Killing Joke, smacks out, as loud as ever, we must have Spinal Taps PA tonight and everything is on 11. The bass delivery is again totally anti-social at best, as it tries to rip your heart from your body. The drums are busy in the back ground but they have become lost amongst the monster bass drone.
The vocal delivery has become a blur as its undecipherable in the swirling and whooshing bass which continues to dominate the night. The song has become an uncomfortable blur. Trying to pick out a line in the vocal to put you on the right track has become impossible, there’s a break in the music which, after a pause and cheers, duly starts up again leaving me thinking its possibly a false end?
I think we are now into ‘Total Invasion’, again from 2003’s Killing Joke, as there’s a radio voice intro which strikes a memory chord that’s not been obliterated, and then it’s back to a hard, industrial beat as Coleman, voice full of echo speaks the vocal, crouched down he prowls the stage beneath flashing lights.
The guitar is full of dirt and menace as Geordie looks on nonchalantly, was that a yawn? The song builds as Coleman is now shouting the lyric, I’m unsure of what is being said as the words are not reaching me. This is a hard and heavy track that’s square on slapping you in the face. ‘Loose Cannon’ from the same 2003 album follows on with grinding riffs and a bass beat not to dissimilar to ‘Invasion’. In fact, I’m not sure the song has changed or if we have had another false end? I’m hoping for some words to note down so I can look it up later. Either way the relentless mechanical chugging of sound continues and we get the finish.
A new beat strikes up, the drums are thunderous, as they crash out, the lights strobe fast across the stage. The beat is still fast and tight, sadly the vocal is garbled so the message is lost. The sheer amount of noise that is being thrust at us must be hurting the ears of those without earplugs. I have interchangeable cores in mine and I’m thankful I have the 30db drop centres in, but even with these though it’s proving a challenge. Those hard-core fans down the front are loving it though, and that’s what tonight is about, the crush barrier has seen the best of the fans as they dance and jump about, often with both arms raised, punching the sky.
‘The Wait’ takes us back to 1980’s Killing Joke named album, gives way and by a process of elimination ‘Pssyche’ from 1980’s Laugh? I Nearly Bought One, starts up. This is also the B-side to ‘Wardance’ played earlier and is a fitting end to the set.
Bass player, Youth has both hands out stretched as he sings along, the titanic bass is droning out the vocals, as Ferguson on drums rattles out a steady hi hat and snare beat, he’s worked hard tonight but made it look easy when the lighting has managed to hit him sat at the back. Orange spots are now shining down as the bass bounces along with an end of the world thud that crushes your ribs into your spine! Stunning effect!
The band leave the stage as Geordies heavily distorted guitar screams away in agony, the guitar tech lets it hang in the mix for a moment before striking the pedal and killing the noise.
With a brief respite now on offer, I look around, there seems to be a sort of wide-eyed bewilderment amongst those nearby. Despite the poor sound quality that was just an epic example of a band moving their sound to the next level. Astonishing! With the usual cheers and cries for more the band saunter back onto the stage. There is no urgency, these boys have nothing to prove, they’ve done that with what they’ve just played and judging by the response, the fans want a lot more of the same.
I fasten in and get ready for the torrent of energy that is coming. The set list on stage shows there is four more tunes, having seen the previous night’s set list I’m only counting on any two from the four.
‘Requiem’, from the original Killing Joke album of 1980 is up first, starting with an abrasive guitar riff and a slow tom beat as Coleman delivers the lyric, I think we’re getting a few whoas in there as the bass blurs you vision and senses. Coleman has the Microphone characteristically held high above his head as he again mechanically roams the stage delivering staccato lines of verse. Cymbals crash as the lights flash in time, orange and white against blue.
The constant bass drone is there. Industrial Rock is a great description, it feels like I’ve been in a foundry all night. Crowd favourite ‘Pandemonium’, from the 1994 album of the same name, finishes the set off. With an element of the middle east, the bass spanks you squarely between the eyes. The keys I can just make out swirling around as Coleman stomps around once again, he certainly has gotten his steps in tonight, his head is shaking as he continues.
The man has delivered a knock out performance all night. Pink star light spots sweep up across the crowd who are in the moment. The heads are down the arms are up as they groove to this final song. Colemans finger is in the air as he accepts the crowd’s cheers and applause, he then returns the gesture, the music, mechanical in its make-up, continues to sound out as the band, amongst smoke and lights, casually just walk of the stage. The synth howl continues as they do so and is stopped by the techs eventually.
Peeling myself off the back wall I stand there watching the fans empty out of the main hall. Gathering my bag, I exit, listening to what’s being said around me. It would seem the fans have loved every minute of it, and to be fair for my first Killing Joke gig it’s been a blast and a rude wake up call to what I’ve missed over the years, however they have all commented on how loud it was, some have compared it to the last live performance, 3yrs ago, and commented on how much better it was.
lockdown has brought a lot of bands back with a renewed vigour and determination. It’s only the second night of the ‘Honour the Fire’ tour so a few teething problems are to be expected, when that sound is nailed this will be the show to beat. A stunning show in the making, get and see them soon, you know you want too but make sure you have ear plugs, you’ll thank me afterwards.