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Alot better than what the critics say. - 95%

DreamTheater3, February 7th, 2012

(Originally written for the MetalMusicArchives under the account "Doomster" - http://www.metalmusicarchives.com/things-viral--review.aspx?id=259536)

Welly, welly, well. Here we have Khanate's second album, "Things Viral", released in 2003 by the great Southern Lord Records.

I am a huge fan of Khanate's first album, their self-titled. I thought it was a masterpiece of drone/doom metal misery, still do. And naturally, I was excited to hear the next album from the New York boys (my hometown!), the subject of my review, "Things Viral". Compared to the positive feedback of the debut, "Things Viral" was generally panned by critics, mainly for not being as "dark" or "heavy" as the debut.

...And quite frankly, I can understand why. This album is...different. Very different from the debut. Khanate have always been a rather unconventional band, but whereas the debut had at least some hint of melody throughout (in the form of "Pieces Of Quiet" and "Skincoat", in case you are wondering), "Things Viral" has completely erased all traces of standard song structure. While the debut was more of a venture through an abandoned mental asylum filled with the lost souls of the mentally insane, "Things Viral" is more of a journey into the deepest, darkest sewers of a ruined city, or perhaps into the pits of a pitch black cave deep underground.

This album is also slow. You are probably scoffing at this comment as Khanate have always been slow, but seriously...this album is so painfully slow that it makes the debut look like speed metal. These songs have no real structure, but that is not a bad thing. Songs usually revolve around deeply unsettling noise made by the instruments, and when actual music in the conventional sense of the word does appear, it has no real rhythm or structure, and then disappears again into literally silence. While the guitars on "Khanate" were crunchy and bone-crushingly downtuned, guitarist Stephen O' Malley takes a very ominous, 'airy' approach to the guitars on this album. The guitars tease the listener, so to speak - while you are expecting this mammoth explosion of sound at one minute, it doesn't happen, and when it does happen, it happens when you least expect it.

As far as drumming goes, it has improved considerately from the debut. Wyskida isn't the biggest influence on me as a drummer, but he is definitely competent. On "Things Viral", his drumming focuses even less on keeping a steady beat. In fact, here, there really isn't that much drumming at all. When he does play, however, he focuses mainly on being heavy and nothing else - the drumming around the 6:42 minute mark of "Commuted" is enough to shatter any skulls within a 200 mile radius.

Dubin's vocals are still as stunning as they were before. However, his vocals on this album are slightly different - thinner and even more sick than in the debut album. His voice conjures up hate, envy, depression, and every other negative emotion you can think of and lets out his pain on the microphone as if it would be the last thing he would ever see in his miserable life. Take, for example, the closing song "Too Close Enough To Touch". Not only is that one of the most unsettling songs I have ever listened to, Dubin's voice emanates everything that was heard in the first three tracks and lets his voice go in a barrage of absolutely repulsive pain, as if it was his final agonized cry for his life to end. It's truly spine-chilling.

Dubin's lyrics are also very, very interesting. They are used alot more than in the debut, and have improved considerately. These lyrics, I think, are interesting because they are very vague, ambiguous and mysterious. Is he screaming about murder, misery...both? It can be a mix of the two at times - "Commuted" seems to be about a mental asylum (or perhaps stabbing someone to death), and "Fields" sounds like it is about drowning someone. Whatever the cause, these incredibly simple lyrics have enough power to keep them from falling flat, no matter how twisted they get.

So, how does this compare to the debut album? Well, in terms of heaviness and "metalness", there is little to nothing here of the sort. If you want more of a straightforward, bone-crunching drone doom album, I'd advise you check out the aforomentioned debut, or Stephen O' Malley's other works with Sunn O))). If you are looking for airy, sickening, slow as all hell power ambient, though, this one's for you.