Album: To Be Cruel
Label: Sacred Bones Records
Release Date: May 19th, 2023
Location: New York, New York, United States
Legendary underground menace Khanate return with a brand new offering of auditory abuse, one that caught many of us fans off guard in the best way possible. The band haven’t lost their lust for assaulting their listeners and collectively let all of us have it on To Be Cruel, a fitting title for a life threatening panic attack in auditory form. It’s the sonic equivalent of the tension one feels when watching a movie with a character with a hair trigger temper and a propensity for horrifically violent outbursts, never knowing what could set them off and what harm they could cause to others. One cannot look away due to how magnetic the character is, yet they are disturbed and disgusted by their vulgarity and disregard for the wellbeing of others.
The album really does generate a very real level of anxiety in the listener at every chance it gets. Starting with the fact that each track is around twenty minutes in length. Secondly it spends large amounts of time giving the listener nothing but static, feedback, silence, and noise. This soundscape creates a sense of dread and anticipation that kicks off that initial anxiety. The band follows this up by making music that operates on what feels like an inescapable loop that annihilates any semblance of the listener’s ability to effectively process time.
The band hit us with droning ceaselessly buzzing guitars that created a sort of wall of noise, or maybe an endless stream of waves of noise described them better. One note will hit and then reverberate out until eventually dissipating before a single drum beat or symbol crash signifies the time for the next lingering strum. Meanwhile raw as all hell shrieked vocals grate at the listener’s ears and mind. These feel as if they are narrating a panic attack, coming across like all of the negative thoughts, fears and shortcomings of a person putting them on full blast in their own head. It’s honestly mind blowing just how biting and raw Dublin’s delivery is, especially after all of these years, yet it seems like his power and delivery are as fresh and on point as they were on the band’s debut.
There’s an intentional desire to make the listener uncomfortable that is clearly apparent to anyone that understands extreme music. The ear-splitting use of harsh noise elements makes that abundantly clear. But it’s also present in the songwriting, where the band attack people’s senses no deepest fears. They have a way of creating musical déjà vu, making the listener think they have returned to segments of the album that have already come to pass, as if this torture will never end.
If there was one song on this monstrously extensive album that I would recommend, it would have to be It Wants to Fly. The track is truly horrifying lyrically, vocally, and instrumentally. The song goes into a disturbing level of depth as it details how Dublin wants to slowly disembowel/take apart a person while they are forced to watch. He explains this in gory detail through unhinged shrieks and an unsettling shout-spoken monologue.
Overall, this is an album that I found to be incredibly well done but not something that I would come back to on a regular basis. I say this because neither my eardrums nor my psyche could handle this level of blatant abuse regularly. I suggest approaching this one with caution and to be prepared for what the band have in store for you.
Listen to and order the album: