Killing Joke do not have fans, they have disciples: The Gatherers. These devotees are so obsessed with the band that their encyclopaedic knowledge of the group’s immense 40 year output can be very hard to add to. It’s partially for that reason, then, that ‘The Death And Resurrection Show’ is such an fascinating and rewarding film. It’s a film that has closely-guarded information so deeply rooted in its DNA that it’s impossible not to learn something new – both about Killing Joke the band and front man Jaz Coleman’s personal views.
Killing Joke have never been a group for idle background noise and likewise ‘The Death And Resurrection Show’ is not a film to curl up on the sofa and have a snooze to. It’s a film that demands your attention every second of its two and a half hour runtime. Information and content is so packed into this film that drifting away for a moment can result in total bewilderment. Killing Joke as a collective, and as a musical entity, have always had the occult and esoteric at their heart and they’ve made no secret of this. Lyrically, the band have historically covered matters of a spiritual and magikal nature, as well as – for need of a better term – ‘conspiracy theories’ about the manipulation of the populace by its ruling bodies.
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In many ways, ‘The Death And Resurrection Show’ demands that, at the very least, you keep an open mind to matters of the occult because a huge portion of the film is dedicated to the subject. This is not surprising when ritual and hidden knowledge is so inexorably intertwined with Killing Joke’s story. Hence, those looking for a straightforward rockumentary might be disappointed. Plenty of the films runtime is dedicated to the band itself, of course, but huge swaths of the film do focus on Coleman’s various globetrotting escapades. It makes for fascinating watching if you’re already intrigued by Coleman as a person; but for those solely interested in the music of Killing Joke, this might be a tad too revealing.
Throughout the film, there’s plenty of excellent footage of the group all through its history, but particularly during its ’80’s period. Some of the footage I’d seen before – some is floating around youtube even now – but some was new to me and there’s plenty of extremely worthwhile insight into the band’s often strained psyche, especially from drummer Paul Ferguson who gives a refreshingly insightful and down-to-earth interview on Killing Joke’s inter-band relationships. The cast of interviewees throughout is usually excellent; key figures in the Killing Joke story are present and accounted for and a few well picked journalists humorously recount the sordid relationship between Killing Joke and the media. ‘The Death And Ressurection Show’ may be intense but, much like the band itself, it’s not without its dark humour and there are a couple of moments that made me laugh out loud.
The film’s physical DVD release comes in an attractive digipak with a booklet of photos, mostly of fans who helped fund the project. In addition to the film, there’s a second disc of bonus features. It’s a mixed bag; a lengthy uncut interview with Paul Ferguson is an absolute treat – he’s rarely seen in interview and in this one he’s very open and honest throughout. There’s also an alternate ending which is worth watching albeit inessential and a trailer for the film, which can be seen online.
‘The Death And Resurrection Show’ is a film every bit as unique and intense as the band it’s about. For hardcore fans, this is essential watching. So much information about the group and their various philosophies is crammed into the film that it’s impossible not to walk away feeling like you know much more about the band than you did before. For those less versed in Killing Joke lore, it might be too much information. ‘The Death And Resurrection Show’ makes no concessions to newcomers and while it’s ultimately a better film for it, it does mean it could be a little impenetrable for those with only passing knowledge of Killing Joke. For fans, though, ‘The Death And Resurrection Show’ is a joy.