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Killing Joke

Brighter Than a Thousand Suns [Bonus Tracks]

Format: CD   Release Date: 02/05/2008
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The end of the '80s wreaked havoc on all too many bands that started off strongly and, while Killing Joke hadn't quite reached its nadir (that would happen with the appalling Outside the Gate), Brighter Than a Thousand Suns was a definite transformation from the days of "The Wait" and "Complications." The unexpected success of Night Time and new commercial pressures clearly came to bear -- Chris Kimsey's production, effective on that earlier album, here combined with Julian Mendelsohn's mixing to result in too often blanded-out album rock throwaways, perfect for blasting on highways and little else. Still, the band hadn't changed any from Night Time, and even that lineup was three-quarters of the original incarnation of the group. The emphasis still focused clearly on volume and strong, full-bodied playing -- Geordie Walker, Paul Ferguson, and Paul Raven don't sound like they're holding back at all even if their individual performances are less on the edge. Jaz Coleman's newfound way around inspiring singing, meanwhile, pays off in dividends; though it's impossible to square the results here with his earlier hectoring and cutting rage, the warm, sweet passion that he brings to bear often transforms an OK track into a great one. "Adorations," the killer opening track and easily the album standout, is a perfect example of how this era of the group could make it all connect, Coleman's beautiful performance on the chorus and the overall ensemble effort making it the best anthem neither U2 nor Simple Minds ever wrote. But the stiff, mechanical beats on the immediately following "Sanity" -- a ridiculous substitution of Ferguson's undisputed abilities -- sets the tone for the remainder of Brighter Than a Thousand Suns, an effort ultimately dialed in rather than performed. The sound-alike quality of nearly all the songs -- especially ironic considering the accomplished genre-hopping on the earliest records -- renders Killing Joke its own unfortunate parody in the end. ~ Ned Raggett, Rovi

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