To Be Cruel by Khanate

Release date: May 19, 2023
Label: Sacred Bones Records

As that first chord comes crashing out, we know that something special is beginning… So who had Khanate reuniting on their 2023 bingo card? You are lying if you said yes. But here is one of the most extreme bands to ever crawl out from under the rock labelled doom unexpectedly bursting back into life. As Alan Dubin screams, quite unlike anyone else, “the horror” of To Be Cruel more than lives up to its name.

It might be fourteen years since the last tortured wails faded into silence, yet even that was a posthumous farewell, finished amongst acrimony and thinly-veiled insults dressed up as news releases. I was there, nearly eighteen years ago, in a small room in North London for what we later found out to be the last (at least for now) Khanate gig, the overwhelming wall of sound battering our poor bodies into blissful submission. The excitement for this record is monumental.

To Be Cruel is not exactly a pleasant listen; however, there is something strangely relaxing about sinking into the vast gulfs between these excruciatingly drawn out notes and brutally thunderous drums. Over the top we have the screeching from Dubin intertwining with the feedbacking wails of O’Malley’s guitar creating a cacophonous orgy of twisted uneasiness quite unlike anything else.

Comprising of three 20 minute pieces, ‘Like A Poisoned Dog’ eases us back in as it hits every Khanate mark, just in case people had forgotten what this was all about. The closing title track becomes sparser, at times dying away to almost nothing, each crash becoming a surprise as it explodes out of the near-silence, until we are indeed left with a harsh, bitter stillness.

The standout though is ‘It Wants To Fly’, with its explicit imagery in the lyrics that is so horrifyingly detailed, and as such is a perfect match for the music surrounding it. More than a few stomachs will be turned by them – somewhat appropriate given the stories that used to circulate of people vomiting at their shows due to the volume and frequencies used.

In all honesty, To Be Cruel might not differ drastically from their output of twenty years ago, yet such is the uniqueness (still) of Khanate, this is almost certainly going to be the most unsettling record of the year. We are not here for memorable riffs or woeful tales of loss, instead it is for the desolate atmospheres conjured in slow motion, the feelings of unadulterated pain and utter loneliness wrought in aural majesty. Welcome back.

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