So I’ve been listening to a lot of doom and drone recently. Sunn O))) are of course hugely important in the genre, but I’ve also moved off into other areas of the genre, more traditional Doom and of course this rather experimental band here Khanate.
Now, the problem with reviewing a band like Khanate is that the whole thing hinges on two main elements which you either love or hate. Khanate are slow. Since their music is less drone and feedback based, they appear slower and more plodding even than Sunn O))).
Additionally, their sound is extremely sparse and minimalist, even for this genre. It seems to be based on the principle of the guitar and the bass hitting their perfectly plotted notes at the precise moment they should occasionally accompanied by a commanding punctuation on the drum kit, followed by a period of letting these notes ring before hitting the next. There are riffs, but they play out over minutes rather than seconds. These riffs often ring out into silence, and these protracted intervals actually carry even more weight and anguish than the notes themselves. Khanate seem to take all the base elements that make up metal, but strip them down to the very bone and leave them for two years in the Mongolian desert where the sand shaves several layers off even the bones.
The second element, probably the most difficult for most people to stomach, would be the amelodic vocals of the inimitable Mr Alan Dubin. With the rest of the music on this particular release sounding like it’s almost being played in another room, Dubin is right up in front of your face, or rather somewhere in between your ears, too close (enough to touch?). His performance takes the metal principle of screaming, but like everything with this band, it is abstracted and contorted into something far more raw and interesting. Instead of being unintelligible, every single syllable is clearly articulated, every word rising up from the depths of the lungs.
The lyrics themselves deal with psychoses and neuroses, not uncommon themes in metal, but here they are enunciated as if he is talking specifically about you and to you. Commuted, for example, speaks of stalking and voyeurism with such lines as “The hunt, the follow, that’s what I Love” while Dead seems to deal with extremes of loneliness, paranoia and absolute self-loathing “I was not worth knowing, visible, awful, but not seen”.
The real effect of listening to Khanate seems to be difficult to explain unless you have a stomach for the extreme. It probably seems to Average Joe & Janice, just to be a serial killer screaming tortured paranoid poems into a well while some bearded cavemen randomly smash their instruments against the wall. It is a misconception that slow music is always easier to play; music this slow takes more effort to co-ordinate than fast music, because if one note is out of place, it is noticed far more easily, and any slight variance of the attack of each strum imparts a massive difference in sound and texture. Given that these musicians are performing compositions of up to twenty minutes in length, with rests between beats often of ten seconds or more, coupled with a vocalist whose performance and delivery is powerful enough to make average metal fans run home to their mothers crying, the idea that this music is “just random noise” shows an embarrassing ignorance on your part.
All in all, Things Viral is a powerful record, and Khanate are a band who (prior to their split in 2006) carved out an unusual niche in the recent drone doom movement. Do you care? Do you? Idiots.