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Experimental/Post Metal

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4 stars Khanate are a drone doom metal band from New York City, my home state. It involves members from Sunn O))), OLD, Atomsmasher, etc. Wether favorable or not, listeners of this band have often hailed this as the most disturbing slab of music ever created. I was heavily skeptical of this rumor, thinking it was just going to be another stupid goregrind band who relied mainly on shock appeal. When I finally decided to listen to one of their tracks ("No Joy") on YouTube, Khanate took my skepticism and tossed that salad out of the window.

The rumors were correct. This music is "depraved" in every sense of the word. The Swans and Neurosis have got nothing on this album. I'm not even exaggerating here - it really is one of the most disturbing things in music I have ever seen (yes, it's so disturbing you can see it...or something).

The music of Khanate relies heavily on the guitar and bass. The guitars alternate from booming drone riffs that are literally so loud and heavy it can rattle the listener's skull, to ear- splitting guitar feedback which can sometimes last for minutes on end. The bass, besides the vocals and lyrics, is definetely the most disturbing thing here. It sounds absolutely frikkin' enormous. The bass riffs are deep, gritty, and as one reviewer over at the metal archives said, it sounds like a gigantic oak creaking open.

I mentioned that the vocals sounded even more terrifying than the bass. They are loud, mentally inhumane sounding shrieks which could quite literally smash all windows in a room if played loud enough. The lyrics on here are almost so pessimistic it makes you never wish to see the light of another day. Vocalist Alan Dubin howls oh-so-pleasent lines like "METAL TEETH RED...RED TEETH GNAW...LEG...AND...SAW" ("Pieces of Quiet") or "NOW...I'M UNDER ROTTING SKY" ("Under Rotting Sky").

The drumming is also stellar. Lots of people say it is mediocre and does nothing more than helping the music keep stable, but I like it for what it is. It is incredibly heavy and crushing, and quite scary, too - the drummer sometimes teases you with almost painfully simple beats when suddenly all the music stops, when suddenly the music fades back in raw heaviness.

"Pieces of Quiet" is not a welcoming opener, crushing the listeners ears with painful guitar feedback and white noise. A minute later, the riffing and vocals lumber in, and any chance of you having an easy listening are completely stomped into the dirt. "NO MORE WHIIIIIIIIINE!"

"Skincoat" doesn't let up. It's essentially a monolithic beast that relies heavily on feedback, with Alan screaming a love song (/sarcasm) to his most ear-piercing. Surprisingly, the song picks up the pace a bit, but then slows down again, with utterly creepy whispers and a tribal drumming outro.

"Torching Koroviev" is a short filler track with some suggestive sounds. Not really creepy, but unpleasent.

The band launches themselves back into audial abyss with the 18 minute gargantuan, "Under Rotting Sky". The first 5 minutes of this song plod around with an agonizingly slow riff and teasing drums in the background. Finally, at the 5:42 mark, the vocals come in, and the madness begins, with the vocals becoming even more desperate and evil than before. "No...stars...out..."

Whatever happiness you have left by the end of "Under Rotting Sky" is stripped away with the closing track, "No Joy". This song merely consists of one massive (I know I keep using words similar to that, but they fit so well!) bass riff echoing itself from the 3:53 mark which grows more and more disturbing the more it is layered upon, with Alan Dubin's vocals pouring out negative emotion. The riff continues on forever and ever, and finally it fades out, ending the album, and leaving the listener with chills down his/her spine and a rumbling stomach, as well as an incredibly depraved feeling of misery.

This album is a pure masterpiece. It may sound like I dislike it, repeatedly calling it "miserable" and "depraved" - but that is the entire point of it - to sound so utterly sick and disturbing that even Freddy Krueger or Koromo Amae would shake back in forth in a dark corner, weeping for their mommies. If you are into sick, non-easy listening and creepy music, then this is for you. This is the only album to make me feel really bad and there for deserves nothing less than a solid four stars. Listen...if you dare!

Highlights: "No Joy", "Skincoat" (93% on the MPV scale)

Report this review (#580727)
Posted Friday, December 2, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars As much as I am a fan of the genre, drone doom can be a bit boring. Many of the bands tend to sound the same, but there are a few bands in the genre who stand out and offer something unique, and Khanate, with their debut, made themselves known to the underground metal world as a group in the standout category.

First of all, this band should be on the radar of all drone doom fans because the modern doom master, the one-and-only Stephen O'Malley is included in the lineup, offering up his ultra down-tuned rattling guitar drones that he has since become known for with his infamous duo Sunn O))). But while that is a key component in this type of music, the key ingredient for this album is Alan Dubin's horrific vocalizations -- he sounds like he is screaming in pain while driving white-hot metal stakes into his skin, as to make his grotesque poetry more brutal. Dubin's ear-piercing, demonic shrieks were hard for me to get used to, personally, but after a while he proves himself to be a major player in crafting the overall unsettling doomy vibe of this album and for the rest of Khanate's discography.

The drums are of the typical doom fare, supplying occasional bursts of cymbal crashes and bass drum thumping, following the slowest tempos imaginable, and the bass guitar playing adds another layer of down-tuned rattling that effectively deepens the abysmal droning chunks of doom laid down by O'Malley. While none of the musicianship displays virtuosity of any sort, the individual musicians all work quite well together to create an atmosphere that is absolutely horrid, and they are very successful in this regard.

Whereas the music of Sunn O))) is based primarily on long-form, never-ending drones that don't follow any obvious song structure and seem to have more in common with types of experimental ambient (that is, creating a mood and soundscape rather than something to bang your head to), Khanate have crafted their drone doom into more concise song structures. There are still no clear distinctions between verse or chorus, or even if either exist at all, but their (relatively) speedy approach to drone doom allows the listener to actually focus harder on the riffing. Compared to a lot of drone doom, this album is a lot less hypnotizing and a lot more of an grueling aural assault.

Khanate's self-titled debut is not an easy album to listen to, and even some doom fanatics might find it difficult to enjoy because of the vocals (which deterred me from enjoyment for a while), but patience it takes to understand and accept this album is well worth the effort. Liking this album and the abysmal aural torment contained within is somewhat of a masochistic experience, but people need that kind of thing every now and then. For those who enjoy the pleasure of pain, I recommend this album.

Report this review (#796179)
Posted Saturday, July 28, 2012 | Review Permalink

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