Today sees the release of To Be Cruel, a new album from drone masters Khanate on the always excellent Sacred Bones label. Comprised of Sunn O))) and KTL’s Stephen O’Malley, James Plotkin and Alan Dubin (OLD), and Tim Wyskida (Manbyrd and Blind Idiot God), the band have been on a 14 year hiatus that showed no signs of cracking until now.
Drummer Tim Wyskida explains the reemergence:
“Stephen [O’Malley] and I had an opportunity to record music together for a Drag City compilation in 2016, it was then that we recognized we wanted to do more together. We booked an incredible studio in Woburn, England to record the guitar and drum parts that would become the basis of To Be Cruel.
“We shared those initial recordings with James [Plotkin] and Alan [Dubin], who were as motivated as we were to create new Khanate music. James began arranging the material and developing new ideas as soon as he heard the tracks, and Alan immediately started crafting the lyrics.”
On To Be Cruel’s themes, Alan shares: “The album viscerally and metaphorically portrays a self-immolating destiny that perhaps ironically blames outside entities. There is a need for revenge but… against who and why?”
The record’s funereally paced three tracks – “Like a Poisoned Dog”, “It Wants to Fly” and “To Be Cruel” – all clock in around the 20 minute mark. The slow, unrelentingly and bludgeoning tracks are the very essence of Khanate’s modus operandi that bled through their previous four albums. There is no respite to the bleak aesthetic of the record which pummels the listener rather than offering simplistic pleasures – but those familiar with the sound of the band will be grateful for it.
Time has not diminished the visceral ferocity of Dubin’s vocals which are even more feral than before, while the glorious dirge of guitars and drums wallow in their own pensive nature. As with all things Khanate, this is the sound of the end of things and is about as pessimistic a record as you’ll likely hear all year.