“Pandemonium’ is Killing Joke’s ninth studio album, it’s also the first album of theirs that I bought. By 1994 I’d seen them live 4 times, I had a couple of their singles but I’d never bought one of their albums. On hearing the title track from this one I finally made a purchase.
I watched the Killing Joke documentary, “The Death And Resurrection Show”, a couple of times while confined to quarters during the Covid lockdowns. Apart from proving that they are all genuinely bonkers, there was some great footage of them recording parts of this album inside the Great Pyramid of Giza (a feat that took not a little bribery of Egyptian officials it seems). The vocal tracks for title track “Pandemonium", "Exorcism" and "Millennium" were recorded in the King's Chamber at Giza. If you watch the documentary you’ll hear how some very strange things happened inside that chamber, the batteries to power the equipment that should have lasted 8 to 10 hours were drained in 15 minutes due, allegedly, to some weird properties of the pyramid ! You get some bands putting cartoons of the Pyramids on their album covers but the Joke actually went inside the greatest of them and recorded, now that IS some bonkers heavy shit.
This album has a more sequenced feel about it, there’s more technology at play, it’s more industrial in style than “Extremities…” 4 years earlier. It’s evident from the off on the song “Pandemonium”. Geordie lays waste to all around him while Jaz sings of supernatural aeons, nuclear families and the pipes of Pan. “Exorcism” is flat out scary and I gotta admit I have no clue what they are singing about (“Behind the illusion of reality, Are forces that speak to me, We will draw them out”) I tend to lose myself in the rhythmic onslaught they are laying down. You get no pause to draw breath as “Millennium” is next and this ain’t no take on the fat dancer from Stoke. Jaz Coleman was obviously expecting some great revelation as we entered the 21st century, I wonder if he found what he wanted?
That trio of songs recorded in the Great Pyramid were all released as singles…No hits were forthcoming…although there are those moments where they are capable of making great “pop” songs. “Jana” may have Jaz roaring out the chorus but the verses are reminiscent of “Night Time”s lighter sound. That is more than made up for by the following “Whiteout”, to describe it as intense is an understatement. No one does stuff like this but Killing Joke.
I really have no idea what the theme of this album is, I don’t really need to know. I just love to get lost in the intensity and violence of this music. Conversely I know from previous records that Killing Joke are good people, bonkers, but good people, I may not know the themes but I do know there’s nothing contentious in here. Those three songs recorded in the Great Pyramid really set this record up as something special. Killing Joke are a very acquired taste, this isn’t light and airy it’s raw and, in places, disturbing. As the saying goes “Sometimes music can soothe and heal…but fuck that, this is Killing Joke”