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Guitarist Stephen O'Malley has played in a number of twisted sludge-metal bands — notably Thorr's Hammer, Blind Idiot God and Burning Witch — but his work in Sunn O))) is what has gained him notoriety outside of the insular indie-metal scene. Sunn O)))'s oppressive, effects-laden guitar drones have impressed devotees of noise and experimental music, as well as listeners of post-industrial and neo-psychedelia. Stephen O'Malley's new band Khanate shares much of the shattering doomcore of Sunn O))), without the strict musical asceticism. The addition of James Plotkin on bass, singer Alan Dubin (of OLD) and drummer Tim Wyskida fills out the sound, bringing Khanate out of the depths of harsh, noisy minimalism and into the realm of more-or-less traditional metal. Khanate's self-titled debut for Southern Lord was a slow-motion tribute to the Nordic death metal of bands like Burzum, Dimmu Borgir and Borknagar. This new 12" on Load Records, home to many terrifically bizarre post-metal bands, contains a remix of the song "No Joy" from the first album, and a new track "Dead" on the b-side. James Plotkin's added touches to the frighteningly macabre "No Joy" turn the song into a brutal, mind-crushing dirge, a post-apocalyptic tribute to The Stooges' "No Fun." No fun, indeed, as the nine-minute track is warped and extended for maximum oppression and mental violence. O'Malley's guitar delivers the painstakingly sluggish, catastrophic riffs that caused Julian Cope to exclaim that "slow is the new loud." The drums are also played achingly slow, with monolithic forcefulness in every excruciating beat. Dubin's high-pitched shriek-singing shares the same terrifying, evocative morbidity as Tom Araya's Reign in Blood-era vocals for Slayer: "No joy/No fucking joy/Only hate." Plotkin's extra production touches intensify the song's darkness and brutality, adding electronic stutters, time-stretching, creepy whispers and ghostly metallic phasing. The b-side, "Dead," is a previously unreleased track taken from the same sessions as their upcoming full-length album on Southern Lord. It is a similarly oppressive slab of queasy, ambient doomcore, but this time Dubin's desolate vocals are more emphasized in the mix: "I was visible/But not seen/Deserted/Alone." Plotkin adds unexpected digital smudges, squalls and glitches to this track, indicating a more experimental direction for the band. What I find so impressive about Khanate is their exaggerated but ascetic musical vocabulary: each element is carefully formulated to impart maximum dread, pathos and painful aggression. It's extremely theatrical, completely original, and ultimately very satisfying.


Last Updated on Saturday, 10 September 2005 08:25  


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