The Podcast


Latest Episode #47

Ester Segarra

● Are live photos 'fake' now?
● How to get the perfect band pic
● Snapping Burzum, Mesuggah, Watain

More Episodes

#46 - Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal

#45 - Primordial's Alan Averill

#44 - Sigurd Wongraven - Satyricon

Must reads:    All Albums Of The Month   ●   From The Vaults!   ●  The Forums Hall Of Fame   ●   Irish Metal - Reviews Archive


Limelight Oct 3rd

Get More From Metalireland

To win albums, gig tickets and access to exclusive stuff that's NOT on the site - join our fortnightly email.

From The Vaults #6 | Killing Joke’s ‘What’s This For…!’

It was released in June 1981 – the second album from Killing Joke outdoing their self titled debut in terms of song writing, intensity and brilliance. It also outdoes everything else around at that time.

But they always knew this, as evidenced by this quote:

“This band would not just be a pleasure principle, it would have a social function, rather than something you put on when you get home from work. I guarantee that if you do that with a Killing Joke record, you’ll lose your job.

We knew we were different – we were articulate and intelligent, yet we were portrayed as thugs, which admittedly there was an element of truth in.”

Evolving from the fractured UK punk scene at the end of the 70’s, early Killing Joke blended disco and dub into their apocalyptic sound. Hence, fans of The Ruts and Chic could be found in the crowds of their early gigs, alongside the mohican brigade. Their first Peel Session captures this period perfectly.

By 1981, the sound had evolved into what one Village Voice critic described as “an ugly, overwhelming, heavy metal-disco fusion that might be the first real advance in HM since The Stooges…” (KJ were not impressed by this comment), and the outbreak of rioting in Brixton (not far from the band’s squat in Ladbroke Grove) simply complimented the album.

A simple but sinister drum beat opens ‘The Fall of Because’ before Geordie Walker comes in with a riff that sounds like the gates of hell opening up. Drummer Paul Ferguson and bassist Youth play a tight, but inventive rhythm based on dub reggae and Celtic beats. Vocalist Jaz Coleman sings a set of lyrics influenced by noted British occultist Alistair Crowley.

‘Tension’ does what it says, and does it through a chugging guitar riff that sounds like a baseball bat landing on your head. ‘Unspeakable’ begins with a moody keyboard line, then Ferguson ups the ante by plummeting his drum kit with controlled violence. Youth’s basswork during the chorus adds an extra layer of discomfort.

A staccato keyboard line holds ‘Butcher’ together, with Coleman’s distorted vocals spewing venom about the rape of the land for oil and wealth. Coleman then uses ‘Follow The Leaders’ to lambast the then British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, as well as the lemmings who’ll follow anyone with a stronger personality than them.

The krautrock leanings evident on ‘Madness’ captures the daily grind of modern life and contains a lyric that sums up the viewpoint of the entire album “If this is today/Well what the fuck’s tomorrow.” By utilising Coleman, Youth and Ferguson as vocalists for this one, the listener is barraged with contrasting vocals. Adding to the insanity, Walker’s guitar is suitably metallic, but minimal.

‘Who Told You How’ is a short electro number with tribal percussion and sweeping guitar. ‘Exit’ is the most traditional “punky” number on here and may appear to end the LP on a somewhat optimistic note. But a closer inspection of the lyrics suggest otherwise: ” Noise turns darker the moments pass/But the drums keep thundering in familiar way.” Ending with a fade out of the drums furthers the point.

At the time of release, UK unemployment was over 2 million, Nazi skinheads regularly clashed with anti fascists, rioting had broken out in South London and the country was still reeling from the Yorkshire Ripper murders. In Northern Ireland, IRA members died on hunger strike and riots in nationalist areas were daily occurrences.

Harsh times like this require an album to soundtrack this chaos, and ‘What’s THIS For…!’ captures this period by evoking imagery of dread and mayhem through the riffs and lyrics. But these are still harsh times, and it still sounds as potent over thirty years on.

As Jaz Coleman said in 1990: “Killing Joke always have an important role to play in times of world tension” and this is still the case today.

The greatest album of all time. No question.

Christopher Owens ::: 04/10/14

  1. “The greatest album of all time. No question.”

    I’m all for these retrospectives and I think there’s great potential to discover some gems you may have originally missed, but comments like this?? Really?? Absolute nonsense.

  2. Peter Shallis Says:

    i think calling this piece nonsense is a little harsh, it is almost impossible not to gush forward in enthusiasm.
    When sound, a piece of art, has such a profound effect on a young impressionable fertile mind, objectivity takes second place to a moment seared in the memory.
    Revisiting that moment and listening again, taking into account all that has passed since then, politically historically and musically, this piece of work still stands up, sounds different almost fresh in comparison with the derivative processed product from today’s ‘alternative’ groups.

  3. If it’s opinion then what’s the problem? I’m sure everyone here could name an album ‘the best ever’ and each pick would be different.

  4. John Kimble Says:

    I’m not calling the piece nonsense, just the assertion that it’s “the greatest album of all time. No question”. It’s a very good article and it if encourages the reader to check out Killing Joke, then all the better. I just find that kind of hyperbole a bit irritating.

  5. […] via Metal Ireland » Archive » From The Vaults #6 | Killing Joke’s ‘What’s This For…!’. […]

  6. One of my favorite albums. Not sure its even the best Killing Joke album though. Think the second s/t holds that title.

Post your comment

Mail (will not be published - required)

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. This includes cookies from the content management and forum systems, Google Analytics for site statistical purposes, Google, Amazon and Ticketmaster for advertising banners and links, our upload widget and Facebook.