Pick a band, any band, and if they incorporate any sort of tribal drone, ethereal wall-of-noise roar, mystical third-eye ravings or percussive punk-driven art house nihilism in their music, you can likely thank KILLING JOKE for the influence. The launching pad for a hundred metal, punk and new wave bands, all of whom sold more records than they did, the petulant genius brainchild of Jaz Coleman and Geordie Walker cast a shadow on modern music that is massive and undeniable. METALLICA? SEPULTURA? TOOL? Devin Townsend's many works? NEUROSIS (and by extension the entire ISIS/PELICAN axis of painfully hip endtime merchants)? Yep… it all comes back to those first few KILLING JOKE records.
"Hosannas From the Basements of Hell" will appeal to a broader cross-section of 'JOKE fans than did 2003's self-titled clusterbomb. That album seethed with metallic fury (propelled by an awesome performance from Dave Grohl on drums), where "Hosannas" relies more on Geordie's wall-of-sound washes of hollow-body guitar, repetitive and droning verses, and Coleman's ragged shaman voice. The production at first seems jarring — the guitar seems overdriven, almost too loud, and Coleman is hoarse, manic, buried, shouting like an explorer lost in a snowstorm.
Give it a couple listens, though, and break out the headphones. It all makes sense shortly. "Hosannas" is the sort of tripped-out, heavy, atmospheric record you can easily get lost in, the soundtrack to hallucinogenic dances around tribal fires, music for speeding down autobahns with your eyeballs melting, cackling maniacally. From the thunderous beat of the title track to the ancient aura and Sumerian vibe of "Invocation" (remember, this is a band that recorded a track for 1994's "Pandemonium" in an actual Egyptian crypt — take that, NILE), to the edgy chaos of "Majestic", "Hosannas" is an exercise in entropy. Just try to keep your head screwed on right when the techno-tinged "Walking With Gods" unleashes a patented Geordie guitar burst after a long, hypnotic verse. It's just not possible. The whole thing is ragged, loose, bleary-eyed and frantic, and it seems ready to go off the rails at any moment.
In short, it's perfect post-millennial music, the sound of a world merrily driving itself off the deep end. KILLING JOKE are a primal scream of humanity drowning in a tsunami of man-made disorder, headed straight to hell and laughing the whole way down, like Slim Pickens riding the A-bomb at the end of "Dr. Strangelove". You won't find a more blown-out, wild-eyed freakout on the record store shelves any time soon. KILLING JOKE are a must, and "Hosannas From the Basement of Hell" is one of their best, hearkening back to the raw nerves of their youth, exorcising demons.