Khanate Capture & Release

[Hydrahead; 2005]

Rating: 3/5

Styles: doom metal, sludge, noise-rock, experimental black metal
Others: Grief, Corrupted, Eyehategod, Weakling

Though bands such as Black Sabbath, Pentagram, and Blue Cheer are generally credited with being the progenitors of what is commonly referred to as Doom Metal, it was the "second wave" of doom that occurred in the mid-80s which can be fully associated with the emergence of this particular variety of metal as a viable musical form. Perhaps partially as a reaction to the cartoonishly preposterous legion of hair bands which came into being during the 1980s, the early practitioners of doom metal were a constituency that took themselves infinitely more seriously. Aside from the numerous acts that have been spawned by this second wave, myriad sub-genres (funeral doom, sludge, drone, et al.) have indeed sprung up as well. The most popular and mainstream offshoot of doom, however, is the stoner rock contingent, which is probably closest, both spiritually and stylistically, to the music of the '70s doom forefathers. If this be the case, then Khanate are the dialectic opposite of stoner rock: they are the essence of Black Sabbath synthesized and distilled down to its ugliest, evilest, most sinister components.

Though guitarist Stephen O'Malley is involved with several other projects, including Burning Witch and the highly regarded and experimental Sunn O))), it is Khanate which primarily serve as a vehicle for his more misanthropic leanings. Far, far removed from the Camaro-and-mirrored-sunglasses rock of Monster Magnet and Orange Goblin, Khanate's frightening dirges are more likely to instigate a drug-induced freakout than to serve as a catalyst for a positive psychotropic experience. It's probably not unreasonable to state forthrightly that Khanate's music the stuff of nightmares; in any case, this is certainly not background music for an afternoon in front of the Playstation.

Khanate's new EP, Capture & Release, features two long tracks that together take up over a half hour. It's a grim, avant-garde exercise in tension and paranoia. Dense, leaden drones fill up the spaces between O'Malley's sparse, deeply sustained guitar chords. O'Malley's crushing, downtuned riffs, as on the previous two Khanate offerings, create an extraordinarily oppressive, minor-key atmosphere. Vocalist Alan Dubin's anguished vocals seem to convey the tortures of the damned as if there were not a shred of hope left for existence in this world. His delivery, which eschews the traditional Cookie-Monster death grunts which are omnipresent among the usual doom metal fare, is more akin to the tormented vocal style commonly associated with black metal recordings. Capture & Release is also not dissimilar to black metal in how it so violently conveys such a bleak and ultra-nihilistic world outlook. But while the standard tempo on a black metal album typically strays into the triple digits in terms of beats per minute, Khanate's plodding pace keeps the BPM soundly within the single-digit range.

Capture & Release is a release that is surely not recommended for the feint of heart. It's an extremely dark, abrasive recording that is likely to leave even the most mean-spirited listener feeling somewhat unsettled. Dubin's bloodcurdling screams/vocals are certainly an acquired taste; but nonetheless, the record is an intriguing effort that provides a harrowing yet insightful glimpse into the nether regions of doom.

1. Capture
2. Release

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