The original line-up consisted of Jeremy “Jaz” Coleman on vocals, drummer Paul Ferguson, guitarist Geordie Walker and bassist Youth, who has gone on to be a successful producer. Their first release was their self titled debut which came out in 1980. Youth left the band after their third album, 1982’s Revelations and was replaced by Paul Raven who died in 2007. The band achieved their most commercial success in 1985 with the album Night Time which contained their most famous single “Love Like Blood.” Even though Coleman and Walker have been the only constant members, the original line-up is now back together.
# 10 – Hosannas from the Basements of Hell
The title track “Hosannas from the Basements of Hell” off their 2006 album, it is one of the best of their post-millennial output. The track lives up to its name, having a doomy atmosphere which makes Killing Joke still one of the most intense and forward thinking bands making music, despite their long career. At this point this was the most harsh sounding material they had ever done and they were clearly affected by many bands in the extreme metal genre citing them as an influence and are very much embracing that within their own sound here.
# 9 – You’ll never get to me
Taken from their second self titled album released in 2003, which was something of a comeback album for the band with it being their first since 1996’s Democracy, it features none other than Dave Grohl on drums. This slow and melodic track showed a different side to Killing Joke which was not all about heaviness and extremity. With lyrics dealing with a sentimental subject matter, seemingly nostalgically reminiscing about the past and their time together as band, it is a Joke anthem which is about celebrating life without sounding bloated and cheesey.
# 8 – Complications
One of the lesser known Killing Joke songs is entitled “Complications.” The song is from their 1980 debut album. The track defined that Killing Joke were a band who were going to take rock music in a direction of their own. The song Complications presented listeners with a unique melodic riff. The song’s chorus displays Coleman’s range as a vocalist reaching beyond his usual raspy vocal style.
# 7 – Democracy
Another title track, this time from their album released in 1996. This is a track that saw Killing Joke mellow with age to an extent with it having a rather melancholy tone. With that said, this is not a bad thing as lyrically it is just as fired up as ever, being inspired by the political climate of the time, which in the UK was just a year away from the rise of New Labour.
# 6 – Money Is Not Our God
This track, taken from the 1990 album of the same name, is classic Killing Joke through and through. It harks back slightly to the sound of the early albums but at the same time see’s them make a successful transition into the 90’s. Lyrically the title speaks for itself, being an anti-yuppy anthem attacking corporate greed and exploitation.
# 5 – Requiem
Possibly KJ’s most famous song, the opening song off their debut features one of the most classic post-punk riffs of all time, with Coleman delivering a unique and rather guttural vocal performance over the top of it. Still to this day a favorite with fans, it was notably covered by Foo Fighters in 1997.
# 4 – Pandemonium
By 1994, Killing Joke were still proving themselves to be musically relevant with this tack and album of the same name released that year, which was due in part to the popularity of the industrial genre which they basically created with bands who were selling millions such as Nine Inch Nails and Ministry citing them as a key influence. “Pandemonium” sees the band adapting their sound into a new era and generation with its metal influenced riff and lyrics that are once again reflecting on what was then the current state of the world via the perspective of Coleman’s New Age beliefs.
# 3 – Empire Song
This track from 1982’s Revelations is a truly classic slice of early Killing Joke. Featuring a very uneasy-sounding riff, it is KJ at what they do best: apocalyptic, doomy-sounding industrial rock. By this point, Coleman had developed a fascination with the occult, particularly the writings of Alistair Crowley. So much so that he moved to Iceland in order to survive the apocalypse which he believed was coming. As a result of this, he was unable to perform the single on Top of the Pops, with drummer Paul Ferguson performing the vocals. Guitarist Geordie Walker and bassist Youth soon followed Coleman to Iceland. However, the apocalypse never came, and eventually, they all moved back to England.
# 2 – Let’s All Go To The Fire Dances
Taken from 1983’s Fire Dances album, this was the first sign of Killing Joke gaining more mainstream success, with it being by far the most accessible material that they had produced at that point, which they would take further with “Love Like Blood” a year later. Despite this, lyrically, it deals with concepts just as out there as ever, with the fire dances in question seemingly alluding to starting a revolution.
# 1 -This World Hell
Taken off 2010’s Absolute Dissent, this is easily one of the heaviest tracks that Killing Joke has ever recorded and is a classic example of their modern-day metal-influenced sound. The title also very much speaks for itself and captures the band once again dealing with the concept of the sorry state of the world after thirty years! The riff is very heavy and doomy sounding and Coleman’s vocals sound more powerful than ever, being completely growled all the way through. All in all, the song could very much be the soundtrack to the apocalypse!
Updated August 10, 2023
Top 10 Killing Joke Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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