Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Killing Joke "Brighter Than A Thousand Suns" (1986)

Ive been chipping away at the Killing Joke discography for some time, their first two records "Killing Joke" and "Whats THIS for...!" were really something but the rest of what Ive heard hasn't been quite as unique or interesting. I last listened to "Outside The Gate", their most poorly received record but one I thought wasn't all to terrible, it had a couple of memorable, catchy songs on it. I actually skipped a beat there, missing this record which ironically feels more like a solo effort from front man Jaz Coleman who's face dominates the albums cover. The negativity surrounding the band at the time seems to revolve around the shifts in style but listening thirty years later its seemingly irrelevant.

Guitar distortions and aggression are almost non existent, the guitars, mostly overdriven, are jamming away in the distance, drifting through melancholy riffs in a wash of hazy reverb that vibes with the synths. Jaz's electronics are eerie keys with an astral quality about them, they take much of the melodic lead and usually the guitars are following them, adding texture and density to the simple synth lines. The drums are rather punchy and active with solid tones however in the mix the are rightly quiet and keep pace rather than make a big impact on the songs. The bass lines are a key component of groove, big and bold the rest in the forefront jamming to their own tune that ties the drums to the guitars and keys. Rising above it all is Jaz's voice who flexes the soft yet powerful side of his range. The instrumental sets the tone, building the atmosphere for Jaz to take the stage. With some soft reverb he shows his talent however as always the lyrics generally pass me by. Its an agreeable chemistry but as it stretches on through its hour run time a limitation arises without a flexibility to his approach on each song. The songs two are rather simple and their is no grandiose ideas at work, just variations on the same aesthetic.

Its still got that distinct Killing Joke vibe, but far more New Wave, and with a tinge of Gothic residing in its moody, slightly gloomy exterior. Two tracks in the middle stick out, breaking the established formula and stripping back the guitars for the synths to take lead. "A Southern Sky" has a memorable hook "Death on the hills, into the forest" and "Victory" has a much perkier, upbeat feel with a jovial base making itself known. They feel different and slightly more pop than the rest of the record, at one hour it probably could of dropped these songs off but that's just my opinion since they feel so out of place to me. Overall its a reasonable record, enjoyable in its moment but not much sticks in the mind about it. Its something for a particular mood, just a mood I'm rarely in.

Rating: 5/10

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