After meeting up on October 2007 at Paul Raven's funeral and the intimations of mortality that Raven's passing gave to them, the original line-up of Killing Joke formed by Jaz Coleman, Geordie Walker, Youth, and Paul Ferguson decided to work together again as a unit and to record together for the first time since 1982.
When the band was rehearsing for gigs during the summer 2009 they were also writing new songs for the album during the rehearsals. Then Coleman and Walker got another few ideas together in Prague, so when they started the album they had nine songs quite ready for the album and then they added another nine. They wrote over twenty songs for the album and then they have been arguing over which songs, and which mixes, and which artwork goes on the album.
The band used a revolutionary element in the organisation. In the sessions during the day Killing Joke did structured songs and in the evenings they did jams. Thereby, they spent all day focusing on one thing with a structured approach and then in the evening they got it as a spontaneous release with an anarchic approach.
We have survived equipment being hi-jacked, tapes being withheld, nervous breakdowns, family bereavements, blood lettings, and a host of other challenges of Biblical proportions, But we are now at the final ascent, and I have to say it's one of the greatest albums I have ever had the privilege to be involved with… EVER! I have been living and breathing it for over four months now, and I'm still jaw-droppingly amazed at its power & beauty.
All members of Killing Joke participated in writing the lyrics and composing the music. The album was conceived and then recorded in London, Spain, and Prague. It was engineered and mixed by Clive Goddard, and produced by the band themselves.
The album was going to be called Feast of Fools, but they decided to not use that track and they chose Absolute Dissent for the title of the album and of its opening track.
Absolute Dissent has the sludgy sonic quality of their 2006 release Hosannas from the Basements of Hell, much of the same metal influence of their 2003 album Killing Joke, and the melodic grandeur of 1986's Brighter Than a Thousand Suns. Apocalypse, geopolitics, population, societal control, and random acts of kindness are some of the main themes in the album.
The opening track, "Absolute Dissent", with its chopping guitar, the frantic dance beat, the hymn-like chorus, and the apocalyptic content, sounds utterly euphoric somehow mimic their classic 1980 song "Pssyche". The lyrics are about the way the world is going with references to the microwave towers, already up and running in China and depicted on the artwork of Jimmy Cauty from KLF, towers that can monitor everything on every person at all times, and the theories of Nicholas and David Rockefeller about microchipped population and supernational elite.
The album's second track, "The Great Cull", is a heavy song in the style of their 2003 album, Killing Joke. It talks about Malthusianism, the Codex Alimentarius for creating a sick population, water fluoridation and dopamine increased in the brain, chemtrails, malleable population, and mass control to maintain the population preferably around 500 million.
The third track, "Fresh Fever from the Skies", is less intense than the preceding track and has a "Chop Chop"-like riff. It tells an inexplicable experience that happened to Coleman and about a hundred other people who saw seven luminous glowing objects in the sky when they were outside the pubs in Ladbroke Grove.
"In Excelsis" was first released on 23 June 2010 on the extended play of the same name. It is a simple but hypnotical mantra-chant, anthemic song with simple drums and featuring keyboards for the first time on the album.
The fifth track, "European Super State", was released as a single prior to the release of the album on 20 September 2010. The song, the most commercial track on the album, is a mixture of dance-punk, UK hard house, and electronic body music, with a soundscape fitting of Depeche Mode's Violator era. It is a continuation of their convictions about the European dream. Killing Joke are all supporters of the European ideal. They wrote a song, "Europe", on their fifth studio album released in 1985, Night Time, which has a similar content. It is a worth looking at Jan Huss, the origins of the European Union, and the European roots.
The sixth track, "This World Hell (Die, Long Pig!)", is an industrial metal piece in the style of Godflesh, Greymachine, Rammstein, and Neurosis. Along with "The Great Cull", this is the heaviest song on the album. The song is played without a click track, in one take. Lyrically it was inspired by Coleman's eldest daughter who turned him on to the work of Jean Ziegler, former professor of sociology at the University of Geneva and the Sorbonne, Paris, and United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food from 2000 to 2008. It concerns with food supply and asks for a sweeping green communism.
"Endgame", first released on the In Excelsis EP, is not far away from their 1984's classic "Wilful Days". The lyrics are about several different themes such as a pharmaceutical company (Baxter) that was caught sending the H1N1 virus to their sister company, or the war with Iraq.
"The Raven King", is the album's emotional centerpiece. It musically fits onto their 1986 album, Brighter Than a Thousand Suns, with an atmospheric keyboard opening sets a backdrop for Coleman's voice. Guitars and bass play in for a soaring, epic chorus. It started during a jam session when Glover said: "Right, let's do one for Raven! Let's go!" Lyrically it is about Chris Knight's ideas of that human activity must be governed by our ancestral spirits. "It's not a song about Paul Raven," Coleman said in an interview with Rob Haynes for The Quietus, "it's about Raven's anger and things he felt passionately about. It's a song for Englishmen." "Carpe nocturno" is the last line of the song and also the last thing Raven said to Coleman in Prague when they meet for the last time.
"Honour the Fire" features a harsh, but melodic guitar and growling bass undertow, with Coleman's mournful voice addressing all the elements. But, under the heavy production there is also a pop song buried here. It's a short Killing Joke's autobiography and tells of their relationship with money.
"Depthcharge" is a Pandemonium-style industrial-dance track. The lyrics are about impending the environmental catastrophe.
"Here Comes the Singularity" is a Night Time-era influenced song detailing the 2012 phenomenon, the speeding-up process and its singularity, and the end of the world as we know it.
The closing track, "Ghosts on Ladbroke Grove", first released on the In Excelsis EP, is a moody, space-echoing lope, harking back to the dub roots of their first EP, Turn to Red released in 1979. Ladbroke Grove, a road in west London, in The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and also the name given to the immediate area surrounding the road, is the place where generations of Coleman's family have lived, and where the second wave of punk started. The music was composed first and then Coleman went in the studio on the day after and wrote the vocals. The whispering vocal is sung by Glover.
Well it's our tribal area, apart from we hate the way it's been developed. We miss all our old friends. That's where we started this, where generations of my family have lived, it was the first cosmopolitan experiment in this country. It's sacred land. It's where the second wave of punk started, from the punky reggae party where Don Letts brought punk together with Bob Marley, and the whole spring in punk's rhythm section changed from that point in that area. We used to rehearse there, The Clash would be upstairs rehearsing – we didn't used to speak to each other at that stage, but later I became great friends with Joe. We used to live in squats then. It was the only way you could afford to do your music. It was an area of dissenters and thinkers, and now it's just full of bankers and wankers.
Other new songs such as "I Am War", "A Sick Sun", "Time Wave", "Suicide Tribe", and "Feast of Fools" are not included in this album, but the band still want to work on them and then publish all of them in different editions.
The album was released on 27 September 2010 in the United Kingdom and Japan, and on 1 October in Europe on Spinefarm Records, marking the 30th Anniversary for Killing Joke. It was released in the United States in November 2010 and distributed worldwide via Universal Music Group.
The album was released on various formats including CD, double coloured vinyl and a 2-CD deluxe edition featuring a bonus disc entitled Absolute Respect with Killing Joke's songs covered by Metallica, Amen, Helmet, Econoline Crush, Dead by April, Nine Inch Nails, The Mad Capsule Markets, Nouvelle Vague, Fear Factory, Foo Fighters and Kotiteollisuus.
Reception for Absolute Dissent was very positive. Review aggregator Metacritic, which collates reviews from various publications, indicates a score of 79 (indicating "Generally favorable"). The album has received positive professional reviews. The BBC Music review by John Doran stated that "They easily manage to step out from the long shadow cast by their own first two albums on this close-to-genius release. ...this is K[illing ]J[oke] at their distressingly original best." Dom Gourlay of Drowned in Sound music webzine awarded the album eight stars out of ten and wrote that "they've defied all expectations and created arguably their most definitive, and overtly complex body of work in decades. ... Absolute Dissent is a remarkable achievement for a band whose creative zenith appeared to have been locked in the annals many moons ago. ... if this is the last time Killing Joke embark on a recording project together, they couldn't have concocted a more fitting finale."
Neil Gardner of British magazine Rock Sound wrote about the album that it is "Still angry, still vital", and gave it seven stars out of ten. Darryl Sterdan of Canoe.ca gave the album a rating of four out of five. Phil Freeman of Allmusic gave the album four and a half stars out of five and ended his review with: "it's damn nice to hear a band still operating at this level over 30 years into their career." Laura Wiebe of Exclaim! praised the album and wrote that "The (post-)punk ethos is there, but this is heavy, intelligent rock, aggressive and insistent sometimes, but tempered by several laidback, reflective moments. And, in a way, it sounds like these four guys were never apart." Mike Schiller of PopMatters gave the album a rating of eight out of ten, and in his review, wrote: "the sound of Absolute Dissent is remarkably consistent—mostly straightforward rockers with some combination of tuneful singing and gravel-tinged bellowing over the top, well produced and tightly performed. There are a couple of low points, [...] but even those tracks pass fairly unassumingly."
Q magazine gave the album a rating of four stars out of five, pointing out that "The post-punk provocateurs 13th album finds them straddling post-millennial metal and ritualistic pounding, Jaz Coleman still roaring like he's the only sane person in a world of fools". Mojo stated that "from the title track's monolithic defiance down, this one's an out-of-the-blue, anti-establishment classic", giving the album a rating of four stars out of five. Less enthusiastic reviews, but still positive with a rating of three stars out of five, reviews were written by Kerrang!, Now, and Alternative Press. The first stated that "thirty years on from the release of their earth-jolting, trouble-divining self-titled debut, Killing Joke show no signs of either mellowing or cracking a smile". Jason Keller for Now wrote that "the tracks are long, grinding and relentlessly angry about the state of the world", while Alternative Press pointed out that instead of building on their strengths, frontman Jaz Coleman & Co. have backslid into subdued sogginess of the band's mid-period". Tim Klingbiel of leading Australian music website FasterLouder wrote that "Approaching controversial subjects such as population control, chemtrails, microchipping of the world's population and bioterrorism, Coleman's lyrics are fascinating as always, and he remains one of the few truly enigmatic and captivating frontmen in the world of modern music" and summed up the impact of the record and cultural significance of the band by stating that "More than anything else, Absolute Dissent highlights exactly why Killing Joke remain so culturally relevant after over 30 years – far from being content to rest on their laurels, they continue to explore territory far beyond almost any other band today."
In November 2010, Killing Joke were honoured with the trophy for Innovator at the Classic Rock Roll of Honour for their unique and influential evolution of sound over the years. The magazine ranked Absolute Dissent at number ten on its album of the year list. The album was also listed at number ten in the Terrorizer magazine's Top 40 Albums of 2010, and number four in the Metal Hammer's Top 50 Albums of 2010. It came eighth in Revolver magazine's end of year list.
All tracks written by Killing Joke (Jaz Coleman, Paul Ferguson, Martin "Youth" Glover and Kevin "Geordie" Walker).Notes
Clive Goddard – chief engineering and mixing