KHANATE — Khanate (review)

KHANATE — Khanate album cover Album · 2001 · Drone Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
Sometimes understanding where a band got their name will tell you a lot about the overall vibe their trying to instill with their music. In the case of KHANATE, a so called supergroup due to the fact that the four band members vocalist Alan Dubin (Old, Gnaw), guitarist Stephen O’Malley (Sunn O)))), bassist James Plotkin (Old, Scorn, Phantomsmasher) and drummer Tim Wyskida (Blind Idiot God) all got their feet wet in various doom and drone oriented metal bands that had an impact on the metal scene. The name KHANATE is a term for a political entity that appeared on the Eurasian Steppe and most synomous for the time of Genghis Khan and his massive Mongol Empire. This is music of conquest indeed, the type that administers its bombast at a snail’s pace and unleashes all the torturous apparatuses to fulfill its goal.

While drone metal was derived from doom metal, many of the bands that fit into that child sub somehow managed to separate themselves completely. I mean, does anyone associate bands like Earth, Sunn O)))) or Boris with doom? Maybe only superficially but they certainly evolved into a more post-metal realm that utilizes all that fuzzy drone sludgery in a world all its own. KHANATE’s self-titled debut on the other hand totally embraces the doom metal roots from whence the drone sub spawned. Therefore this album contains four long sprawling terrifying tracks (and a short dark ambient one in the middle) that utilize all the grating layers of feedback, insane asylum shrieking and fuzzed out bass in conjunct with heavy doom laden riffs that flow like Antarctic molasses only they also have hints of their doom metal roots from the likes of Black Sabbath and Pentagram.

While drone metal is mostly a miss in my books as it is usually repetitive and sprawling to infinity, KHANATE found the perfect formula to create elongated timespans filled with AAAALLLL the frightening possibilities. First of all, Alan Dubin’s vocals are absolutely terrifying. In fact the whole album makes me think of scary dude from the movie Scream inviting all his buddies over to make some music. They shoot up a little heroin and the party’s on. It’s fright night with all the amps turned to eleven, intent to scare at full capacity and experimentalism is set to high with only the tiniest trace of established doom metal orthodoxy allowed to provide a somewhat shaky canvas to paint upon. Slasher metal anyone? These guys are great at keeping the tracks distinct from one another despite operating on the same set of principles, namely scare the holy crap outa anyone who gets near.

KHANATE couldn’t have conquered new territories if not for the outstanding production that graces this album. While the plodding rhythms flow like cooling magma down a only slightly sloped terrain, the guitar, bass and drums all conspire to create just enough variation to keep one’s attention span from teetering off into elsewhere. These guys paid attention to every small detail and the result is an addicting feedback fuzz laced with sludge celebration of slow, miserable and lugubrious outbursts of pure dread. I’m not sure why this hasn’t been lumped into the funeral doom world because it certainly evokes the same desperate depths of despair. The middle piece “Torching Koroviev” takes this to even more extreme levels as it eschews the metal aspects and creates a dark ambient gut-wrenching experience.

Julian Cope described this album as an orchestrated root-canal and you know, that’s not too far off the cuff. This music has a fuzz back feed that does remind of the dentist’s drill only it’s like going to the dentist on LSD where every seemingly banal move becomes a torturous tale of misadventure and every sonic change is a new demon invited to the party where you are the victim of demented torturous abuse. The album is good all the way through but the final two tracks “Under Rotting Sky” and “No Joy” really delve deep into a dark and unforbearing underworld that resonates as an eternity of suffering where no souls escape in a true tesseract of impending hopelessness. This is some of the coolest drone doom metal around as KHANATE mastered the emotional depth to pull it off. This is very different than any of the band’s other projects and totally recommended for those looking for the most extreme examples of doom based metal on slo-mo.
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