After almost 15 years hiatus, the American band Khanate delivers a new exercise in patience for their listeners. Their new album, To Be Cruel, displays a singular and prosaic vision of the « extreme » in music.
Born from the ashes of the eclectic Old Lady Driver, and featuring such names as Stephen O’Malley of Sunn O))), Khanate acts as a kind of extreme version of what sludge metal has to offer. Everything is muddy, dirty and decrepit. Things move painfully slowly. Indeed, while the many sub-genres of doom metal are all indebted to the Black Sabbaths and Candlemass of this world, this is a far cry from the bluesy language of the heavy metal of yesteryear.
To Be Cruel consists of just three tracks, totalling over an hour of music. While the exaggerated tempi to which the audience is subjected recall the crushing slowness of funeral doom, the aesthetic is markedly different. Instead of an otherworldly roar with a shrouded, Lovecraftian atmosphere, Khanate’s music is visceral and unadorned. Guitars pierce viciously through the silence, punctuated by sparse percussion and screaming vocals whose technical imperfection is fully assumed. With feet firmly planted on the ground, this antithesis to escapism confronts human misery.
The minimalist arrangements are more reminiscent of a punk album whose speed has been dramatically slowed down. No room for melody or catchy structures. In fact, were it not for the drums and the ranting, To Be Cruel would be a drone album, as Stephen O’Malley’s beating and resonating chords remind us between each feedback. Again, this is not an easy listen. Khanate explores the extreme distress of human life rather than the phantasmagorical poetry evoked by death.