Sound: Time to go back to the 80s..! (even though its 2012, and the album's called 2012 and... Gimme a break, 5 hour recording session).
Killing Joke are the unsung heroes of 80's British punk. Perhaps more well known for their influence than their music (perhaps 2 recognizable singles, but a multitude of famous bands citing KJ as an influence), KJ have had a strange journey since their beginnings in the early 80's, churning out a previously unheard of sound that could literally by translated as dystopia, a sound that combined the earliest forms of goth rock, what would be known as post-punk, industrial rock and electronic rock in general to create a unique sound for the era. Not as in your face as hardcore, but not in any way as accessible as pop, KJ relies on atmosphere and drive, coupled with solidly catchy riffs and dense harmony layers.
"MMXII" sees a culmination of all the different styles of material that the band of previously created, a more natural follow up to 2010's "Absolute Dissent". You've got the deep, darkly heavy feels of openers "Pole Shift" and "Fema Camp" that permeated the sounds of "What's THIS For...!" and "Fire Dances" but also more uplifting, personal sounds of "In Cythera" and "On All Hallows Eve" which share influence from KJ's most recognizable album "Night Time".
The thing about this album is its flow and solidity: The sound doesn't progress too far from four-on-the-floor, dense chords and repeated anthemic lyrics, but there are bits that make it sound so special, so unlike what KJ have done before. Riffs from "In Cythera", "Primobile", "Colony Collapse" (Is it more or does the intro have the same harmonics as Converge's "Wretched World"? Gives the song a suitably dark feeling) and "Glitch" show distinctly progressive riff writing, balancing chromatics and diatonics perfectly. There's not much emphasis on groove, instead focusing more on the overall texture of the album: everything sounds big. Jaz Coleman's strikingly loud vocals punctuate the atmosphere with verses of revolution and awareness: "Its 2012, be aware". // 9
Lyrics: Jaz Coleman is one the most recognizable vocalists, ever. No beating about the bush, if you heard his voice once, then heard it again somewhere else, you would instantly recognize it. Not only is he unique in sound and phrase, but he often adopts a very rough growl of sorts, akin to Lemmy bit with much more bite (arg, blasphemy...). As is the way with KJ, every vocal line is as perfect as necessary, punctuating bursts of soft melody or harsh aggression, a sung conversation ("In Cythera") or a shout at the world ("Glitch").
KJ has always been the band to foresee some sort of end of the world type stuff going on (I think at one point, some of the band members moved to Iceland to avoid a supposed impending nuclear war), and with a name like 2012/MMXII, there's more anxiety than ever coming from this album. "Pole Shift" as the name suggests, is based on the supposed apocalypse theory that the north and South Pole will swap positions, creating changes to our world. "Fema Camp" is based on the US government agency, FEMA, who (officially) act on behalf of the government in times of crisis, but whose motives are unknown due to their secretive nature (but you know it'll end up like Deus Ex or some weird stuff). "Glitch" is centred around the "deadly solar flare" idea (just want to point out, it is a near impossibility, cough cough cough) where everything with an electrical circuit will instantly "die" as it were, while the song itself is in equal parts satire as it is a warning (as well as being damn heavy). // 8
Overall Impression: I guess you could say it's not so much a grower, fans of KJ will love this, instantly, I can guarantee, but new listeners may find it either too much, too little or maybe a little too old (in the bands own words, They're living in the 80's). But in a world where you've got an oompa loompa with pink hair and a disproportionate body talking, literally, talking about taking a poo (Nicki Minaj) as the big money maker in the industry, perhaps a bit of raw, pent-up aggression is needed to kick your mind into shape. Come together, gatherers!
Songs to look out for: "Fema Camp", "Colony Collapse", "In Cythera", "Primobile", "Glitch", "Trance". // 9