Friday Full-Length: Khanate, Things Viral

If Khanate were still together today, you’d call them a supergroup. Hell, maybe they were a supergroup 15 years ago when they released their second album, Things Viral, on Southern Lord. Or maybe it’s this record’s sheer extremity that would make them so. Or maybe who gives a shit? Like about anything? Because it’s Khanate, and if there was ever anything that was going to completely level the playing field in terms of showing you how utterly meaningless everything you say and do — or have said or done, or will ever say and do — is, it’s this band. They are sonic nihilism brought to life.

Or death, since it’s hard not to listen to the original four tracks and unmanageable hour-long stretch of Things Viral and not find your mind awash in mental images of decay. With minimliast notes from guitarist Stephen O’Malley (of SunnO))) and many, many others), low-rumble from bassist James Plotkin (as in “mastered by,” which more than half the records your hear this year probably will have been), the scorched poetry of vocalist Alan Dubin (ex-OLD, currently of Gnaw) and accentuating thud of drummer Tim Wyskida (Blind Idiot God), Khanate were like nothing else even in the realm of drone. What was truly horrifying about their sound, what really haunted, was the contradiction in that what sounded so much like chaos in the second half of the 19-minute opener “Commuted” or its fuller-crushing 19-minute follow-up, “Fields,” could invariably not be chaos. Things Viral, which didn’t give away its title line until closer “Too Close Enough to Touch,” was methodical — premeditated. Not only because as the follow-up to Khanate‘s 2001 self-titled debut, the New York four-piece had an idea of where they were headed sound-wise, but even in its own crafting, it was thoughtfully constructed, brought to bear to be as aurally flaying as possible, and the abrasion conjured throughout its four tracks — the shortest of which, the penultimate “Dead” stands at 9:28 — was not a crime of passion. It was pure intent.

Given the bleakness, the immersiveness, the sheer swallow-you effect that Things Viral has even a decade and a half after its initial release, this is utterly staggering to realize. New bands get together every hour on the hour and say, “We’re going to be the heaviest thing in the world.” Most of the time it doesn’t work out. With Khanate, the mission seems to have been to haunt their listeners like some residue of trauma pushed into the subconscious. I think one of the most powerful moments on the album is in the ending of “Dead.” The final guitar ringout happens marked by a crash around the 8:30 mark and the last minute of the song is given to eerie whispering from Dubin and off-time drum hits from Wyskida that make for the most minimal and also the most terrifying moment on Things Viral as amps crackle in the background. The whole album’s use of empty space is something I’ve never heard matched in any form of doom or drone. Khanate were unafraid not only to create tension through spacing out the excruciatingly slow paces of “Commuted,” “Fields,” “Dead” and the abrasive, high-pitched scree of “Too Close Enough to Touch,” but over the course of the 59 minutes, there’s impact from emptiness as much as fullness, and the band proves no less extreme in this manner than they are in any (every) other.

Every bit worthy of hyperbole, Things Viral is the kind of record that might’ve proven more influential if there was any chance whatsoever anyone else could live up to its standard of malevolence and misanthropy. From the grueling hum and noise that starts “Commuted” — where the band just makes you wait for the punishment to begin — to the cacophonous final stretch of “Too Close Enough to Touch,” Khanate seemed to tap into an end point of pushing an idea as far as it could possibly go. It wasn’t about being dark, or being heavy at least in the way one traditionally thinks about either. But it was a conveyance of fear, paranoia, trust-betrayed, self-loathing and thoughtful violence that remains unmatched to this day. Khanate would of course go on to offer a number of other releases, from limited merch-table live outings to the 2005 Capture and Release EP to their third and final full-length, 2009’s Clean Hands Go Foul, and while I’m not about to take anything away from their swansong, which rounded out with the half-hour-long “Every God Damn Thing,” or that prior EP, Things Viral would continue to fester in the mind not only as a representation of the horrors of the age in which it was created — wars just beginning that still continue today; atrocities all around us large, small and bloody — but of the inward rotting we experience as a result of these things without even realizing it.

The version of Things Viral streaming above is Hydra Head‘s 2016 reissue. It has bonus tracks and swaps the running order a bit of the original core four songs, but it’s enough that you’ll get the point, to be sure.

I’d say I hope you enjoy, as is my custom, but that’s not really the idea here. Just absorb it, maybe close your eyes and see where its associations take you.

Good luck.

This week was a blur. Up early, pounding out this and that, trying to get as much done as possible while keeping appointments — I’m due at the dentist shortly — and trying to keep my head on tight while still undergoing this eating disorder treatment. Which is bullshit. I feel no healthier than I felt when I was starving myself and eating nothing but protein shakes. Don’t get me wrong, food is delicious — I ate like six oranges yesterday; it was fucking hilarious — but it’s a total waste of my time. My body aches all over. I’ve put on 50 pounds in like a month and much of that is water I’m retaining because who the hell knows why. My feet and legs are so swollen it hurts to walk. Miserable bastard then, miserable bastard now. I’d rather be hungry and dying. Do I mean that? If that’s the situation I was in before, then yes.

Nobody knows what the fuck “healthy” means anyway.

I’ve been overweight my whole life. Shit, I’m overweight now. My whole life. It’s affected my every single day. I feel eyes staring at me, people judging me like I just got back from the Wendy’s drive-thru or like I mainline Dunkin Donuts or some shit. I turn down bands who offer to send me t-shirts because I’m embarrassed to ask for a 2XL. It’s fucking miserable, and it’s been miserable for nearly the entirety of my 36-plus years on this planet. I mean that. Every fucking day. During this process, starving myself as I allegedly was, remaking my body, I was underweight for the first time in my life. Why can I be that? For a while? Why? Why can’t I do that? What if it kills me? Who’s not better off without me in their lives? The Patient Mrs.? The baby? My family? There’s no one around me to whom I’ve ever been anything but a burden. Even now. I don’t work. I don’t contribute. I wake up early and blog about music, shouting into an abyss — and yeah, it’s awfully nice when someone sends a nice comment or a note saying they appreciate that, but even that’s more like, “I found this band, awesome!” And yeah man, that band is awesome. I don’t feel like I helped that process of connection. I just fucking feel empty.

Except for all that fluid I’m retaining. Ha. Seriously, it’s so much that it’s pulling my skin taut on my calves and thighs. My shoes fit me again, so something must be improving, but still. Long way to go, I guess.

Which is what the nutritionist tells me. Long way to go. It takes time. It’s a process. It’s complicated. Go see this other doctor who’s going to draw more blood and agree with me because your doctor doesn’t.

I was better off before.

My sister had bariatric surgery maybe two years ago now. She’s killing it. I should’ve done that. Stupid.


Sorry. I guess that’s how you end up closing out a week with Khanate.

But hey, the first spring training games are on today, so it’s baseball time. Hopefully I’m back from the dentist to see it start. And I got to do a track premiere for the new Monster Magnet, which was awesome. So, you know, strikes and gutters. Some you win, some you lose.

Here’s what’s on tap for next week, subject to change as always:

Mon.: Messa review/video premiere; new Bismut video.
Tue.: Final installment of the Nebula interview/stream series, covering Dos EPs.
Wed.: Blackwater Holylight review/track premiere; Dandy Brown video.
Thu.: Sinistro track-by-track.
Fri.: Merlin review.

Jammed as it is but I’m sure more will come along as well, like all of a sudden today there was an announcement for the Psycho Las Vegas 2018 lineup. That’s how these things happen. One can only try to keep up as best as possible.

Have a great and safe weekend. If you need me I’ll be getting a crown put on, then watching baseball and cooking a spaghetti squash to go with pesto and chicken for dinner, because that’s how I do these days, apparently.

Please check out the forum and radio stream. And buy my book. I don’t think there are that many left.

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4 Responses to “Friday Full-Length: Khanate, Things Viral

  1. Robb says:

    I’ve been reading your Friday posts much more urgently lately. Since you started having these eating issues, and I thought I would let you know that you are not alone. People out there like you and me struggle with eating every day. The recovery process does take time. Such as the losing of the weight. Hang in there Dude. It gets have to know that your now doing the right things and it will all come together before you even realize it.
    I also wanted to let you know that your blogging is something I read everyday. Not just because of music news, but for the love of music itself. I’m sure a lot of you readers would agree that what you do on here is excellent, and I envy your ability to keep up with all that you keep up with. I would bet that most of your readers would trade places with you in a second for a chance to immerse themselves in music the way you do. Anyways I am here, and I hear you.

  2. Ryno says:

    What Robb said.
    And you’re not a burden. Don’t give those thoughts the time of day. Health, nutrition….shit, life in general. It’s all process. It’s always a journey. There is no black and white. Good days and bad days. But you keep going forward. One swollen foot in front of the other. Keep up the good work, man. Get better. It takes time. \m/_

  3. Romi says:

    Hi. It’s been more than a few years since I found your blog and started reading it on a daily basis. I’m from Japan and I’m your age. I’ve struggled with weight issue since I was 17 or younger. I’ve been through anorexia and bulimia. It may sound cliche but you are not alone. Living a human life isn’t easy. It’s enough for you that you are still there. It’s enough for me that I am still here. Thanks for you I found many great bands and flied to see shows overseas. Amazing. I owe you a lot. Without you and your blog I am not here.

  4. StevhanTI says:

    Don’t give up JJ.

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