Killing Joke: Hosannas From The Basements of Hell

Killing Joke - Hosannas from the Basement of Hell

Killing Joke: Hosannas From The Basements of Hell
Label: Cooking Vinyl
Release Date: 4/03/06
Review Date: 4/19/06

Sure, I was raised Catholic and I’ve been to mass hundreds of times in my younger years, but I still had to look up “hosanna” to get the literal definition. To plagiarize paraphrase, it means “a shout of fervent and worshipful praise used to express praise or adoration to God.” I’m not sure what this means coming from a guy who once fled to Iceland to prepare/avoid the apocalypse. I’ve been keeping up with Killing Joke on and off over the years. Like every eager young punk in the 80’s I was issued my prerequisite copy of their first self-titled record. I have What’s this For on vinyl but hardly listened to it. More recently I’ve purchased Pandemonium and Democracy, both of which I enjoy but don’t spin nearly as much as the Willful Days and Laugh? I nearly Bought One! Collections. So I’m a fan, is what I’m trying to say, but don’t own the whole catalog.

Hosannas finds the band in their 25th year, and it seems like they are getting harder! They’ve still got a trace of that dance beat going, but Hosannas is pretty heavy. The tip off should be the surrealist Bosch meets Dali cover excerpted from a painting by Victor Safonkin. It’s enough to make you want to buy a vinyl version so you can see the whole thing reproduced larger in the gatefold. The swing is mostly gone, replaced by a barrage of controlled fury. Hosannas is more cinematic in nature than it is meant for casual listening. “Walking with Gods” and “Majestic” are the tracks that most closely resemble early Killing Joke. “Invocation” is a plodding and heavy “Kashmir” for punks, complete with harps. Heavier than anything Led Zepplin could have hoped for. Another standout track is Lightbringer, (which I assume has little or nothing to do with A Song of Fire and Ice, unless my geek worlds are colliding!) Implosion is one of the better tracks as well.

Their press makes a big deal out of the fact that they used the old tape echo machines from ’79 and the album was mixed by the same guy (Matt Lusardi) who mixed the very first Killing Joke recordings. Actually, my biggest beef with this record is the mix. The vocals are hard to decipher and often get lost, making the lyric sheet a must. Part of that may be due to degenerating vocal chords after so many years of abuse, but every once in a while the tempo will change and you’ll hear a clean and audible lyric, so I have to think the whole record could have been that way. As a whole, the result can make songs blend together a little on first listen, but fortunately there are enough standouts to keep you coming back for more. Hosannas From the Basements of Hell will seep into your subconscious quickly.

All of the Killing Joke records named in this review are good in their own way. Hosannas does not come across like a band trying to recapture their lost glory, more like a band that still has something to believe in. Not many re-formed or still-going formerly cutting edge bands can turn in respectable efforts after so many years. Killing Joke has produced a record that stands above anything being made by the legions of imitators and mediocre emo-metal bands that would claim Killing Joke as an inspiration and are littering the airwaves today. If Killing Joke is the true faith then please, let’s have a Rapture so all those shitty bands will be Left Behind.

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