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VINE VOICEon April 7, 2005
In the wake of the success of "Pandemonium", Killing Joke (still vocalist Jaz Coleman, guitarist Geordie, and bassist Youth) created something wholly different-- after the Middle Eastern-tinged industrial metal of their last album, the band produced an album in a unique style-- texture-oriented guitars (even acoustic guitars!), crisp bass, and varied vocals. The result has proven wildly unpopular with fans, but perhaps unfairly so. Its experimental, and it misses sometimes, but its certainly an interesting record.

Lyrically, this is a continuation of themes for the band, but rather than being about the impending collapse, it is about the collapse and the reaction. Its difficult I think to get into lyrically because it paints a picture of finding a new home, and lacks a lot of the lyrical venom that previous records had-- "Savage Freedom" being the exception. Its also got a bit of a personal spin to it, confessional lyrics ("Prozac People", "Absent Friends"), and its somewhat of a bitter record, belief that democracy has failed.

The use of acoustic guitars is most apparent on the title track and "Lanterns"-- the former is largely acoustic guitars mixed with heavy tribal bass and drums, the latter is unusual, even for Killing Joke-- another reviewer described it as anthemic, but as a criticism. I'd use the same term as a compliment-- the piece is brilliant, but unlike virtually all other Killing Joke material, its full of optimism. The most important part about these two though is that they're largely designed to evoke a different mood than the usual Killing Joke piece, this isn't about anger or sarcasm (or at least not the extent that other albums are), but remorse and moving on-- this theme comes back a number of times in the future as well on the record to great effect ("Pilgrimage", "Medicine Wheel", "Absent Friends"). Of course, this IS a Killing Joke record, and there's some good proto-industrial slabs here ("Savage Freedom", "Aeon").

My point is, this is a great record, its just really different from the rest of the band's catalog-- given the popularity of the last two records, its no suprise the reaction this one got. But its a unique and interesting record in its own right.
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on January 16, 2004
I strongly disagree with those fans that describe Democracy as a weak album. In fact, it makes for the most enjoyable listening, although surely not as the most revolutionary or influential. It is not as unlistenable to as What's THIS for...! or meaningless rage as their latest (it is the probably only time one can agree with the Rolling Stone review!). The vocal shifts are very in place here, as are surrounding musical landscapes, beautiful and bitter, and it's not as repetitious as their usual material. Acoustic guitar is also very good for variety, and will all the diehard fans ever learn that variety is no "selling out"!
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Killing Joke have never been ones to tone down their angry political views, but never before have they been brought to the forefront as on this record. Democracy opens with the brutal "Savage Freedom" picking up steam until the ear-shattering climax. This sets the stage perfectly for the rest of the album: violent, shredding guitar, vicious percussion and above it all, the hoarse shout of Jaz Coleman's vocals. The biggest suprise is the title track, which begins with sparkling acoustic guitar and reaches anthemic heights with the classic chorus, "Sorry, democracy is changing." Of course, it doesn't always work, as on the overlong "Prozac People" and the simplistic "Intellect," but these are small nits to pick on an otherwise violently beautiful album.
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on May 30, 2003
This was my first Killing Joke. I loved it. It isn't very representative of their earlier stuff, which is quite generally dirtier sounding and more difficult listening. This album has a great sound (play it on great speakers for maximum effect) with some more mainstream drumming. But Geordie's guitars (sometimes acoustic, e.g. Lanterns and Pilgrimage) are omnipresent as are Jaz's singing, shouting and other political rantings. Youth's bass is a little subdued but definitely grooves in places (medicine wheel). The long (repetitive but good) Aeon is a favorite of many. The charm of this band and the strength of the songs should work their way into your heart and stay there for ever - 5 stars.
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on May 26, 2015
One of my favorite albums by one of my favorite bands! This release may be a little underrated by some Killing Joke fans, but all they need to hear is "Abscent Friends" and I guarantee they're sold on it!
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on December 13, 2000
Well, just when I thought they'd done it all, the boys reach a new height with this one, combining the lucid glory of "Brighter Than a Thousand Suns" with the primal punch of earlier works. Jaz's vocals are showing the strain of his emotive shouting over Geordie's razor-blanket guitars, but the majesty of these works shines through. The disc drags a bit at first, but once "Lanterns" kicks in, we are introduced once again to the alien and mesmerizing world that only this band can take us to. If you believe the hype that these guys are still negative, check out the spiritual ring of "Medicine Wheel" or the brilliance of "Pilgrimage." (Is that a guitar?? How DOES he do that?) Not an album to play for the relatives, but in these charged political times, "Another Bloody Election" and the title track should be played on every station in the country.
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on February 21, 2007
In a way, "Democracy" could be disappointing, as it's in between "Pandemonium" and the Killing Joke 2003 album in terms of chronology. It doesn't expand on the leaps and bounds Killing Joke took musically with "Pandemonium" and the previous "Extremities, Dirt, And Vairous Repressed Emotions" in any defineable way. Still, besides one bum song that I skip every time I listen to the CD, mostly because of the chorus, "Democracy" is solid as a rock. It's very catchy and has monster grooves, as any proper Killing Joke record should, but is more listener friendly than some of the previous albums.

The single and title track has a chorus that's as infectious as anything the band's done, and the video for said song predicts what happened in the 2004 and 2006 elections in the States. Of course, these sorts of shenanigans go on in elections all over the world all the time.

Yes, the songs on "Democracy" are repetitive, but that's what Killing Joke does. They pound you over the head with riffs, brilliant in their simplicity or complexity, depending on the album. The drums, as well, pummel you with tom tom fills and the hi hat doesn't stop being abused. "Democracy" featurs a massive roar in the vocal department as well. Recommended!
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on December 8, 2000
Dunno why this album is touted as being "un-killing joke" I loved it. Specially the track "Aeon". Listen to it with the volume right up.
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on July 8, 2006
Okay, maybe not. It will seem like it the first few times you listen though. The tie-dye color scheme on the package doesn't help.

This release is another in a short line of KJ-fan polarizing albums. The others would be "Outside the Gate", "Brighter than..." and "Revelations". Some fans swear by them, while others won't use them as a coasters. Listening with some objectivity, "Democracy" is a solid album with some unsure moments to dilute it. It goes to show that Killing Joke, even at their weakest, are pretty amazing.

This is probably the poppiest and most melodic album from KJ in long stretch. That's not a bad thing in and of itself. What turns most fans off is the overall "positive" and "uplifting" tones in the lyrics.

These songs focus on themes of finding strength within yourself to improve your life and move on from pain and despair. Considering this band's history, it's a little unfair to criticize them for giving voice to these aspirations. Occasionally, it doesn't work, though and "Lanterns" may be one of the worst songs in KJ's catalog.

KJ do bring their musical skill and eccentric vision to this work, though, and like all their work, it's worth owning. 3 1/2 stars.
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on June 6, 2007
Killing Joke may just be the hardest-working rock band in the business. While other aging rock acts resort to endless re-releases of their classic material or form short-lived "supergroups," Killing Joke only seemed to get heavier, angrier, and more creative as the years went by. Their 2006 album 'Hosannas' sounds like it was recorded by guys in their 20s.

Between 1994's Pandemonium and 2003's self-titled release is 1996's Democracy, an overlooked and unfairly maligned album. Combining Pandemonium's thundering, exotic heaviness with new acoustic guitars and a more accessible sound overall, Democracy may just be the band's best album.

The album gets off to a great start with the classic KJ heaviness of Savage Freedom and the shout-along chorus of the title track. Prozac People is one of the band's darkest and most personal songs. Lanterns is considerably lighter in tone, and Aeon brilliantly reflects the 80s dance beats from KJ's past. Pilgrimage and Intellect are less interesting but by no means bad. Medicine Wheel is my all-time favorite KJ song, with its infectious dance beats and chorus. The heavy rocker Absent Friends is another winner, and the album concludes with the Nirvana-like Another Bloody Election.

Loaded with catchy and melodic choruses, typically outstanding and varied guitar work by Geordie Walker, and excellent singing and songwriting by Jaz Coleman, Democracy is simply one of the best rock albums of the 90s. I honestly can't figure out why this album isn't as well-liked by other KJ fans. To each his own, I guess.
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