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Monday, 19 October 2015

Reviews: Killing Joke, Graveyard, Ozone (Reviews By Paul)

Killing Joke: Pylon (Spinefarm)

Pylon is the 16th album by Killing Joke, a band that shows absolutely no sign of slowing down. In fact, if anything the band have upped the intensity of their performance and built on the foundations of their two previous releases, the fine Absolute Dissent (2010) and 2012’s tremendous MMXII. Pylon features the original Joke line-up with ringmaster and enigmatic frontman Jaz Coleman in stunning form. The industrial tinge remains, fused with the punk and synth sound that is a characteristic of their key works but as with most of their works since 1994's Pandemonium, a harder, rockier edge is now part of the staple KJ sound. The cutting riffage of guitarist Kevin “Geordie” Walker combined with the ever reliable engine room of Martin “Youth” Glover and “Big” Paul Ferguson powering the band forward.

Coleman’s vocal performance has always been one of the key features of the band; his Gothic style delivery combined with the anger and frustration of the lyrical content continues to provide an intimidating, original and unique delivery. From the haunting Dawn Of The Hive, the apocalyptic foreboding contained in New Cold War and War Of Freedom to the almost all out thrash assault of first release, I Am The Virus, Pylon contains everything you could ask and much more. Killing Joke has been around since 1978 remaining true to their beliefs, roots and vision. In recent years Coleman’s eccentricity has become more focused and his focus on a world going to hell in a handcart has become quite prophetic. If you have never heard Killing Joke, all I can say is that Pylon is a worthy entrance point and one album that in 2015 should not be missed. Oh and where the hell have you been? 10/10

Graveyard: Innocence And Decadence (Nuclear Blast)

Whilst Killing Joke are focused in the here and now, Swedish hard rockers Graveyard sit firmly in the 1970s with their blues and psychedelic mix of rock. Innocence And Decadence puts Graveyard firmly back into public view after a quieter period since their last release, Lights Out in 2012. Although their fourth release continues in a similar vein to their previous offerings, Innocence And Decadence also contains some real gems to illustrate that the three years between albums has not been wasted. The vocal delivery of Joakim Nilsson and Jonatan Larocca-Ramm is gritty, bluesy and filled with soul. From the real Uriah Heep/Groundhogs feel of The Apple And The Tree, complete with some grungy bass courtesy of Truls Morck, to the straightforward rocker Can’t Walk Out which contains elements of The Stooges, this album leads you on a merry dance of colours and sounds which feel fresh and vibrant despite the deep rooted sound of a bygone era. Nilsson and Larocca-Ramm provide sensitive and heartfelt guitar work throughout, with the laid back blues filled Far Too Close a particular highlight. 8/10

Ozone: Self Defence (Escape Music)

The first release from melodic rockers Ozone features two of the really heavy weights of the AOR world and really should be served up as a dessert, complete with crackers, celery and a fine glass of port. Yes, this contains more cheese than the deli counter at Tescos (other supermarkets also available). The production expertise of Mike Slammer, who contributes sterling guitar and bass work throughout, ensures that this is as smooth as silk and crystal clear. Christian Wolff, now sadly deceased, also adds to the crunching guitar sound. The whole album is underpinned by solid drum work from Kerry Denton and the layered keys and organ of Eric Sabo. However, as with any top quality AOR, it is the vocals that allow the cream to rise to the top. Ozone must be the cat in that case as they possess two of the best vocalists in the genre; first up the stylish voice of Chris Ousey, most recently seen in the blues based (and bloody good) Snakecharmer alongside the dulcet tones of Steve Overland, yes that Steve Overland from UK’s premier AOR giants FM. 

 Ably supported by excellent harmonies of Ronnie Platt and Billy Gleer on backing vocals, Self Defence is a definitive blue print for top quality melodic rock. As I listened to it, my mind was drawn back to the brief encounter with the main stage at HRH AOR earlier this year, when I happened to observe a packed crowd rocking out to H.E.A.T. Ozone possess sufficient quality to headline an event like that. Full of radio friendly (is that still a term because it probably doesn't apply these days) anthems, mix in the best of FM, Def Leppard (difficult I know) and a large helping of Thunder and you get the picture. Tracks like Visionary Man, Practice What You Preach and Save My Soul all contain a steely rock frame, whilst the saccharine filled ballad So Blind might put you into a diabetic coma; it’s that sickly. If you like your rock served with a large slice of melody and velvet harmonised vocals, this is right up your avenue. 8/10

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