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Silence while I strip bones - 85%

Wilytank, July 10th, 2012

After my foray into funeral doom metal reviewing, I thought "hey, what about writing up some drone doom metal reviews?" I actually have been into drone doom longer than funeral doom, but I've found that it's harder to write a review for this genre due to it being more abstract than most other music in the metal genre. But it's still got a special place in my heart as an collection of dark art, much like funeral doom metal but taking a different approach. Here today we have Khanate's self-titled debut album. It's not the first album in the genre I've listened to nor is it one of my absolute favorites of it, but it's one of the biggest standouts and it's a little easier to review than bigger monoliths like Sunn O))) or Boris. So, let's give this a try.

The only immediately familiar name to me on the lineup here is Stephen O'Malley who plays in Sunn O))). His guitar work here is basically more of the same here with lots of droning, screeching, feedback, etc. Bass player James Plotkin plays the same way. Tim Wyskida is an interesting addition though since drums in drone doom music is quite uncommon, but the drums do give a heightened sense of musical movement. Vocalist Alan Dubin is the real star here though with his disturbed voice, and it's him that really is the key element that makes Khanate sound unique. Whenever he opens his mouth, I feel like I'm listening to a deranged murderer who's lost his connection to reality.

When quickly glancing over the lyrics, they may seem quite simple; but when partnered with the music and Dubin's voice, these lyrics are just as disturbing as the rest of the music. Again, Dubin's delivery helps here, but so do the instruments. Every song here feels like a different way a murder is carried out with "Pieces of Quiet" feeling like a hacksaw murder especially at the 9:26 mark where the metal strings really feel like the gnawing gnawing teeth of a hacksaw; then there's "Skin Coat", a song about skinning people and making the skins into a coat; "Under Rotting Sky", which seems to be about suffocation by toxic gas; and "No Joy" with really no easily determined method of murder, but with a title like that the death must have been particularly violent and painful with the killer having some sort of sick satisfaction based on Dubin saying "please don't breathe" repeatedly.

This album is conveniently divided into two sections with the first two songs showing more signs of movement and are much more accessible while the final two songs are darker and scarier. "Torching Koroviev" operates as the bridge between the two groups. In group one, we've got more signs of traditional song structure with "Pieces of Quiet"'s beginning passage in an easy to comprehend 4/4 meter structure, but that rhythm eventually gets distorted as the song goes on. Dubin's vocal tone changes a lot through the song starting with shrieking and eventually switching to a creepy spoken word ("Silence while I strip bones...dark and quiet we go now...") with echoing shrieking to be heard in the background. "Skin Coat" is a really sludgy song with obvious Melvins influence. There is still creepy shit to be heard though with some distorted electronics which might include Dubin's voice thrown in. Things get really fucked in the second half of the song with Dubin whispering "I wear a human shield" and the guitar tone becoming more calm.

On the second half of the album, we start with "Under Rotting Sky" which takes up a more traditional drone doom approach. Musically, it's probably the least interesting track here, but the minimalism here does provide some sense of desolation backed up with the muffled drum soloing in the beginning and Dubin's echoing voice throughout. "No Joy" is the darkest of the dark here and is thus the perfect way to end the album. It starts with Dubin's sick whispering voice to really freak the listener the fuck out. The guitar tone in this song is also a lot calmer as well but they turn out to be a lot darker this way to drive away the hope of regaining sanity. The instruments do go away at one point only leaving Alan Dubin's echoing voice wailing "NO JOY!" At certain points, the the guitar (or bass?) gets the volume turned down and an eerie echoing effect put on it while Dubin whispers disturbing things.

Khanate's Khanate turns out to be a pretty solid album. I'm a little put off by the guitar/bass tone being reminiscent of Sunn O))), but "No Joy" saves the album from that tone really going to my head. It's not my favorite or preferred choice for the genre, but it's definitely worth listening to if you're into the very exclusive drone doom fan club especially in the dead of night in a dark room or forest.