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Khanate - Capture & Release

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Artist: Khanate

Album: Capture & Release

Label: Hydra Head

Review date: Sep. 25, 2005

Perhaps we are in the midst of what we might now call the NWOAAM - the New Wave of American Art Metal. Khanate sometimes gets tossed in with groups such as Isis, Pelican, Mastodon and the like, but this seems more like an administrative categorization than anything else (and one largely based on guitarist Stephen O'Malley's work both as a member of Sunn 0))) and as a major part of the Southern Lord label), as the territory this quartet stomps around in isn't even remotely as accessible as their “peers.”

Khanate are pure doom, and take with them all of the familiar signifiers – down tuned bass, sludged out guitar lines, pounding drums, and a throat burned vocalist. Even still, placing these four within that confine still doesn't seem to work properly. These elements are spread across tempos so slow and viscous that they almost make vintage Melvins sound like the damn Ramones. Each swipe of the guitar, pound of the drum, and pluck of the bass is offered up individually, left to burn slowly as the band plots a sparse course throughout the span of their lengthy tracks to assemble all of these sounds into one massive fist that slowly (but insistently) sets about punching the listener in that gray matter that exists in between the ears. It's all tied together by vocalist Alan Dubin (of OLD), whose screams and shrieks pave the narrative path across his bandmates' din and clatter.

Capture & Release is Khanate's third full-length (and first for the Hydra Head label). Unsurprisingly, it does little to deviate from what the band established on their first two records. Rather, like the, uh, "graceful" evolution that's been exhibited by O'Malley's main squeeze Sunn 0))), the two tracks that make up the record find the band effecting subtle variations on their signature that make things infinitely more palatable without losing any of the brute force muscle these four so ably flexed in the past. O'Malley's guitar stabs get a little dronier here, leading into each successive note a little more seamlessly, while Tim Wyksida keeps his drum attack varied with ebbing and flowing rolls and cymbal crashes that add new depth to his percussive strength. Dubin is as morose and somber as ever, and yet plays tricks with his vocals – at times sinking into the background or engaging in a call and response with himself. Both tracks here follow the same general course – a few minutes worth of sounding out the boundaries of their terrain, and then a slow coalescing into a glacial groove that hammers out the remainder. It's haunting, harrowing stuff, and well worth the listen if you dig somewhat masochistic auditory experiences.

But this is not music for the masses, by any means. And although I would consider myself a devotee of the extremes Khanate are likely to plumb, in the past I have only found a conceptual appreciation of this band, as the oft-dour mindset and patience required for proper appreciation of these sounds aren’t always present. But Capture & Release tends to flow a bit better, and it's relative brevity makes this the most easily digestible side of Khanate yet. It's still not easy listening by any stretch of the imagination. Then again, that's probably the last thing people who sign up for this trip are looking for.

By Michael Crumsho

Other Reviews of Khanate

"No Joy" / "Dead"

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