Wednesday, August 31, 2005


How did we get from Black Sabbath (inventors of “doom metal”) to Khanate?

Doom is at this point nearly as wide-open as metal itself. The label encompasses everything from outright Sab clones like Saint Vitus to bad-trip soundscapers like Esoteric and Electric Wizard, from Southern-rock-infused purveyors of filthy noise like Eyehategod and Sourvein to the Japanese experimentalists Boris, who’ve done everything from semi-ambient drone pieces to rifftastic monoliths of roar. But Khanate is the band doing the most with the doom concept, or anyway, the most doomed-sounding band ever.

Sure, Khanate steals from Sabbath. But their brilliance is in what they choose to steal. Khanate are all about space. Each huge chord, each snare crack or cymbal crash, is allowed to decay into silence before the next arrives. They’ve heard the word “riff,” but don’t believe it applies to what they’re doing, and they’re right. Guitarist Stephen O’Malley can’t be bothered with Iommi-esque crunch; he’s imitating the church bells that opened Sabbath’s debut, while drummer Tim Wyskida’s cymbals recall the ominous rainfall. Vocalist Alan Dubin doesn’t sound like Ozzy as much as what that creepy woman on the Black Sabbath album cover might sound like, in your worst nightmares. Bassist Jim Plotkin isn’t nearly as nimble-fingered as Geezer Butler, but he looks like a 19th century serial killer in band photos; Butler just looks like an old hippy. So, points to Plotkin.

Khanate’s new single (never mind the 43-minute running time, two songs isn’t an EP) is the best thing they’ve released yet. Awash in echo, “Capture” and “Release” find Dubin portraying some combination of Gollum and The Silence Of The Lambs’ Buffalo Bill. “Who says I can’t have?/closer come closer/…strapped and tied/sing with me/…someone’s treasure crush,” he screeches. “Release” is even more disturbing, if that’s possible. Dubin, or the character he’s playing, doesn’t mean “release” in the sense that the victim captured in the first song will be freed; he means releasing blood from veins, releasing soul from body. The music perfectly supports the lyrics and vocals, too; some of the pauses between chords are so long that when the guitar does return, you’ll jump like the ceiling just fell in. This, more than any half-assed indie “noise” crap (fuck a bunch of Wolf Eyes and Black Dice), is the sound not of music itself, but of music’s death. Khanate have created a truly hopeless diptych, taking their sound, and doom as a genre, to what seems right now like its ultimate extreme. Hard to imagine a more desolate record being released this year, or anytime soon. I can’t wait to see them live again. (The last time I saw them, Plotkin fried a bass head, so they stopped after just over a half hour. I’m hoping for a longer set this time.)

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