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Hosannas from the Basements of Hell

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Album Review

The snarling animal in Killing Joke that was reborn on their self-titled 2003 release is alive and well on the thunderous Hosannas from the Basement of Hell, an insider album that's pointed directly at the fans. Coming off a triumphant tour celebrating the band's 25th anniversary — captured brilliantly on the XXV Gathering! DVD — the Joke sound absolutely free and grand here, allowing songs to stretch well past the five-minute mark and just begging the detractors to have at it by sitting firm on their classic delivery. Like their great early albums, Hosannas is a sonic sledgehammer, nowhere near as clean as their 2003 release thanks to the band's insistence that old equipment and primitive speakers be used for the recording and mixing. At first, it's a dense and jarring experience as strings and synths get lost in the surging mix, and while the album sorts itself out after repeat listens, the provided lyric sheet is the only way to catch all the twists in Jaz Coleman's inspired words. He's given the album a narrative arc by beginning with two numbers referencing the band/fan relationship. "This Tribal Antidote" portrays Killing Joke concerts as "A Ritual/A festival of dissent" where "Kindred spirits exchange and listen/Share in common a different value system." The title track goes even further, putting the listener in the die-hard fan's day to day experience with the protagonist looking to set friends on fire until he remembers "Killing Joke waits for me/Then we play/Go Psycho." From here on out, it's Coleman and company dragging the hardcore along as villages are pillaged and the sacred is destroyed, right up to the closing "Gratitude," which gradually trudges things back to reality. Supporting this grand journey is Geordie Walker's stately guitar, as forceful as ever and dominating on the otherworldly "Majestic." Newcomers may find this all too much to take in, while old fans can cherish the band's most personal album as another victory.


Formed: 1978

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Heavy and slow, Killing Joke (at least early in their career) were a quasi-metal band dancing to a tune of doom and gloom. They eventually became less heavy and more arty (the latter seems almost impossible) -- more danceable, even -- but early on they made some urgent slabs of molten dynamite that oozed with the power of thick guitars, thudding drums, and over the top singing. The origins of Killing Joke lie in the Matt Stagger Band. Paul Ferguson was drumming for the group when he met Jaz Coleman...
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Hosannas from the Basements of Hell, Killing Joke
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