Khanate - To Be Cruel (Sacred Bones) [Mark Young]
This is an exercise in endurance.
For the unprepared, like me Khanate are like nothing I have ever heard before. Three songs, an hour running time and some paracetamol for afterwards. This is so far out of what I usually listen to, I have no idea where to begin or how to describe it. What I am conscious of is not being snarky or dismissive of this because it takes the concept of what extreme music is and feeds it into a grinder, spitting out the three tracks you have here.
Like A Poisoned Frog ushers in proceedings and takes us on this impenetrably slow trip through feedback and some of the most harrowing vocals I’ve heard. It’s the aural equivalent of the worst nightmare you could have, made real. It is deeply unsettling, and as it crawls towards the end it gets harder to listen to it. Whispers in the background, percussion that sounds as though death is calling and yet there is a rock-hard structure to it. The control displayed in committing this to tape is beyond amazing and I really don’t know if I can do this in one sitting, it’s that harsh and unforgiving.
It Wants To Fly Now wants to murder you in the most horrific fashion. Its set against some of the lowest, gnarliest tones that keeps with that almost glacial movement. The vocals here are delivered as if Alan Dubin is hanging on to his sanity for dear life and is not sure if he wants to keep holding on. His shrieks dominate, the music behind it is almost secondary and I don’t mean that with any disrespect. The impact would be less if it was any other case. But let’s be honest here, the instruments sound like they are being put through a mangle, bringing forth some unholy noise, all totally structured to sound as though its literally falling apart.
The final monolith to be opened, To Be Cruel closes out the third act and increases the intensity as they (I think) describe what could either be the worst trip of all time or the fatal break-down in a relationship. The delivery is being pulled, absolutely dragged from him as feedback just hangs until it stops. The middle section of this is horrific, between stretched out noise and the most haunted screams. Ever. After this middle it starts to build once more this time as they fill the air with screams, feedback and short stabs of noise that brings this one to an end.
Trying to give this a rating seems pointless. In all honesty, taking a step back and looking at it for what it is – performance art I guess, and it moves in a circle that is beyond a score out of ten. This is for those who thrive on something that is not conventional, that is not the norm and is as extreme as it gets. I had to look online for some background, and they are tagged as doom metal, as drone metal, as experimental metal. They are all these but much, much more. It’s not for me, in no way, shape or form. But this doesn’t stop me appreciating it as art. It is art. Remember; the chief enemy of art is good taste. And who is to say what is good or bad. Because I’ve NEVER heard anything like this, and I’ll know what to expect next time: 7/10
Divide And Dissolve - Systemic (Invada Records) [Joe Guatieri]
Track seven, Kingdom Fear stands out like a sore thumb on this project with its spoken poetry and range of instrumentation. Small splashes of piano are heard alongside focused drums and a guitar that has a very dry tone. Everything compliments each other so well and is very supportive in trying to create a vibe. The song feels natural and enveloping as if the tree that is being described by the words, is being planted and growing right in front of me. This all makes for a genuinely beautiful performance.
One of my favourites is track eight, Omnipotent. An emotionally-charged song with anxiety-inducing guitars paired with a drumbeat. By the end of the track it felt like a switch was turned off and was powering down and fading away, defeated by exhaustion.
The classical sections acted as both a palate cleanser and opposing force between gut punches of distortion. A clear example is track nine’s Desire, utilising nature beforehand to provide some hopeful breathing space. Some parts I enjoyed more than others but in all they don’t really do a lot for me.
Formed in 1999, The River are a four piece band based in London. The band have released three albums before Hollow Full Of Hope; their debut Drawing Down The Sun was released in 2006, In Situ followed in 2009, after a ten year gap 2019 brought us the bands last album Vessels Into White Tides. The River is made up of Steve Morrissey on bass, Jasan Ludwig on drums, Christian Leitch on guitars and Jenny Newton on vocals and guitars.
The River's sound has slowly morphed over the years the band have been together. Originally fairly heavy, dense doom metal on their debut, Drawing Down The Sun, moving towards a lighter sound until we reach the style presented on A Hollow Full Of Hope that is softer with a slight amount of distortion on some songs, but mainly clean guitar, strings and beautiful vocals. The River has always used impressive vocals arrangements, but on A Hollow Full Of Hope the vocals aren’t tempering heavy music, so the beauty shines through rather than being a juxtaposition to heavy riffs.
The album is split into five tracks, four main long songs and a shorter instrumental to bring the album to its close. The album opens with Fading a beautiful piece of soft acoustic guitar and staggeringly affecting vocals. The style is very soft, gentle folk or guitar based singer songwriter, with a breathtaking chorus, and lilting piano near the songs end.
Next comes Exits, the guitars have a very slight amount of distortion on them in a way that is a little reminiscent of the guitar sound on 40 Watt Sun’s Inside Room album. This slight reminiscence isn’t surprising as guitarist Christian Leitch played drums for 40 Watt Sun and Warning, however this is just a guitar tone similarity, The River have a sound that is all their own. The song has a fairly powerful opening, before going into a segment with clean guitar and very beautiful vocals. The song builds adding layered vocals and feeling bigger before the song comes to an end with gentle strummed Guitar and piano in a section that feels bathed in sunlight.
Next we get Tiny Ticking Clocks, which is a beautiful little song. Soft, clean guitar with gentle vocals, the song does build slightly with subtle drums, incredibly appealing vocal harmonies and strings. The songs chorus is minimal and arresting.
A Vignette has the slight distortion tone on the guitars, the opening is purposeful and driving, before going into a softer section that is minimal and simple. This song is all about ebb and flow, the song builds and ebbs away several times from soft and lilting to purposeful and taut, the song comes to an end in a soft and gentle way. The album ends with the instrumental Hollow, which opens in a very soft etherial way, and then builds by adding strings, and piano to create a very beautiful conclusion for the album.
A Hollow Full Of Hope is a stunning album. The doomier elements may have taken a back seat with this album, but what The River have put in its place is breathtakingly beautiful. The album is very subtle and exquisite, with vocals lines and melodies that are affecting and stay with you, for the last couple of weeks I have been humming the chorus to Fading non stop. I’m working shifts at the moment, last week I was working the early shift, leaving for work at 5 am, I listened to this album every morning.