It’s difficult to argue against the musical genius that resides in the head of vocalist Jaz Coleman. The evidence: more than three decades of oft-brilliant post-punk, goth-industrial, and art-metal via Killing Joke, the widely influential band he founded in his native UK back in 1978 which, aside from a couple of relatively brief hiatuses, has been fully active ever since. And there’s Coleman’s concurrent career as a classical composer, which has found him working with the London Symphony Orchestra, serving as composer-in-residence with the Prague Symphony Orchestra, issuing more than a dozen classical albums, and writing an opera, The Marriage at Cana, for England’s iconic Royal Opera House.
Still, you probably wouldn’t want to get stuck in a conversation with Coleman at a party, unless you subscribe to the conspiracy theories of Alex Jones and his acolytes (or unless you’re a card-carrying member of the Illuminati and you want to find out exactly how much Coleman really knows). The long-standing “mystic,” who lives on a small New Zealand island these days (perhaps to avoid having to wear a tinfoil hat every day), believes, among other things, that China has built microwave towers to control the population with microchips, which are secretly implanted via vaccines, and this will eventually happen elsewhere around the world; that people are being mind-controlled by chemtrails in the sky and fluoride in the water; that nutrients are being purposefully removed from foods to kill us and keep the world population down; that swine flu is a bioweapon; and that due to changes in the earth’s magnetic field, time is actually speeding up (actually, this one’s sort of believable—is it already the holidays again?!).
But you don’t have to have a conversation with Coleman to have these ideas implanted in your skull. They’re integral to Killing Joke’s aggressive, uncompromising new album, Absolute Dissent, the first KJ album in 28 years to feature the original lineup of Coleman, guitarist Kevin “Geordie” Walker, bassist Martin “Youth” Glover, and drummer Big Paul Ferguson, who decided to reunite after the 2007 death of longtime bassist Paul Raven.
“Western-sponsored civil wars, famine and disorder/Consolidate all currencies, erode all national borders/Mass migrations, demonstrations, voices getting louder/World Trade Center Seven wasn’t hit but turned to powder,” Coleman growls in “Endgame,” one of many conspiracy-themed tracks the foursome blasts through.
Of course, rock stars are supposed to be a little (or a lot) deranged, unhinged, and delusional. Jack Johnson seems like a perfectly normal dude, and his music blows. Killing Joke minus the kook flavor wouldn’t be much fun at all. But Coleman and company deliver their sermons with enough conviction and artfulness to almost make you a believer. Almost.