Vinyl Corner is a feature where we take a look at vinyl pressings of various albums and weigh them up to see just how good they sound, how well they’re pressed and what sort of packaging to expect – as well as giving a brief overview of the music itself. For the first Vinyl Corner in quite some time, we’re looking at a long-awaited first-time release on vinyl: the 2003 self titled outing by industrial metal legends Killing Joke.
Over the course of their four decade career, British institution Killing Joke have evolved and reinvented their artistic direction more times than can be kept count of. Ask ten fans what the band’s best album is, and you’ll likely get ten different answers. For some, it’s the austere post-punk of the group’s 1980 debut, for other’s the pioneering and sinister industrial metal of 1990’s ‘Dirt, Extremities And Various Repressed Emotions’. For this writer – and plenty of others besides – it’s Killing Joke’s second self titled offering from 2003 that stands as one of their greatest achievements. Their first record after a seven year hiatus, it’s an album bristling with belligerence and Iraqi war horror. Frontman Jaz Coleman has rarely been quite so utterly possessed as on the frankly terrifying ‘Total Invasion’, and the band’s more esoteric leanings are served well here on album opener ‘The Death And Resurrection Show’. Production duties come from Gang Of Four’s Andy Gill and although the overall soundscape is cleaner and more sharply focussed than the blurred wall of noise that Killing Joke typically bring to their work, few if any of the band’s other efforts can lay claim to being heavier or angrier than this.
The album’s original 2003 release was CD-only and fans have been crying out for a vinyl release for years. This long-overdue wax treatment comes courtesy of Music On Vinyl, whose prolific and high-quality work has seen them become one of the most respected and popular reissues labels in the business. As always with their releases, ‘Killing Joke’ has been pressed at Record Industry – a generally very consistent and reliable pressing plant whose output can normally be counted on to impress. Those who’ve been waiting 15+ plus years for this release will be relieved to know that the pressing is spot-on here, with a very minimal noise floor and extremely tidy playback. Our copy has only a couple of pops across the album’s entire runtime, making for a very pleasurable listening experience. Mastering and sonics also really impress here; the soundscape is defined and fittingly muscular considering the fury behind the music. Dave Grohl steps in as guest drummer and his tight, edgy stickwork is defined and immediate here. Bass is perhaps a tad minimal, but that’s largely to do with the original mix and the same complaint can be made of much, if not all, of Killing Joke’s post-millennial work. The album is cut as 33rpm and spread across two LPs. With a roughly 55 minute runtime, squeezing all that onto a single LP would have been possible but not without compromise to the sound quality. As it is the sides remain short enough that the music is given plenty of breathing room and, as a result, rings loud and true throughout. A great showing from Music On Vinyl here, and a release that does real justice to this classic album.
The pressing ticks a lot of boxes, then, but what about the packaging and presentation? Thankfully, Music On Vinyl have proved more than capable here as well. Presented in a chunky gatefold sleeve, the album’s striking and vivid art direction is faithfully expanded upon. The inner gatefold spread features full lyrics to the album; this is always a welcome inclusion but especially on an album such as this, where the songwriting is every bit as intelligent as it is furious. One small niggle is a slight blurriness in the front cover image if scrutinized – perhaps due to upscaling of CD-sized artwork. This isn’t the first time we’ve noticed this on a Music On Vinyl release, but it’s minor at most and the front cover still looks great at more of a distance. Chunky spine text allows the album to stand out on the shelf and great quality glossy printed inner sleeves round the package off excellently.
There’s very little that could have been done better with this first-time vinyl pressing of ‘Killing Joke’. Sound is excellent throughout, pressing quality is beautiful and presentation is smart and classy. Whether you’ve known this album for the duration of its life or have yet to discovers the blinding catharsis of The Joke, this is a release well worthy of your time.
Enjoyed this feature? We’re always looking for further albums to highlight on Vinyl Corner – and if you have a vinyl release that you’d love to see written about here, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org – it would be great to hear from you!