ALBUM REVIEW: Khanate – Clean Hands Go Foul – Capture and Release

Having reemerged from its dank void of horror to release To Be Cruel in 2023, deconstructed-avant-doom entity Khanate continues to be pulled piece-by-piece from the mud, as the band’s third and fourth records — 2005’s Capture & Release and 2009’s Clean Hands Go Foul (Sacred Bones Records) — get shined and buffed for physical reissues. 

Some people say that Khanate is Doom Metal. Khanate is Doom in the same way that the various bloody limbs of a dismembered corpse piled up together are a person. Sometimes bands get referred to using the “gateway drug” analogy — like they’re a doorway into something more extreme. Khanate is the drug you inject into your eyeball when nothing else even touches the sides anymore. Cop-era Swans? Pah! Who needs the stabilising comfort of a backbeat anyway?!

Khanate could be Funeral Doom, if the whole procession had decomposed into skeletons that somehow continued to stagger on interminably. Khanate is the musical equivalent of Surstömming — that fermented, Swedish, canned fish that’s supposed to be opened in a bucket of water to offset the intense smell. Next time you see someone post one of those memes where they say, “All metal subgenres are rubbish, metal is metal” find out where they live, break into their house, tie them to their bed and put on a Khanate record. 

This isn’t Paradise Lost, ladies and gentlemen. 

The first of this pair of releases, Capture & Release, is two extended tracks (the “Capture” and “Release” of the album’s title, each flirting around the twenty-minute mark). Apparently the record was conceptualised while the band was travelling through Scandinavian countryside post-tour and ruminating about serial killers. 

Certainly, vocalist Alan Dubin (as usual, delivering either anxiety-inducing screams or sinister whispers) seems to be lyrically channelling a psychopathic murderer “You’re cold when I’m near you … opened and spoiled. However, his place here (on top of this sparse, stretched-out sonic landscape, where bass, drums and guitars fleetingly dance over an empty void) comes across more like an inner voice that rattles between your ears a split second before you die — where an actual instant appears to last for days. 

In the spaces between Dubin’s nerve-shredding screams, the sounds can occasionally be almost meditative. The length of these two tracks absolutely fits the aesthetic of the band (where spaces and silence are used to maximum effect). Could any music be more atmospheric? Capture & Release makes Neurosis’ A Sun That Never Sets appear overly busy by comparison. 

Arguably, this is Khanate’s faultless peak. “Arguably” because in fact bassist James Plotkin feels quite the opposite. With the band having previously constructed their records from initially cutting up and sewing together tape of rehearsals, Capture & Release was reportedly a product of more neatly rehearsed jamming by guitarist Stephen O’Malley and drummer Tim Wyskida. Plotkin does not approve and so in showering such praise on this release, perhaps this writer is (in Khanate terms) a basic bitch. 

Follow-up record Clean Hands Go Foul was completed after the band had already broken up. With his bandmates having made use of pre-paid studio time to record the instrumental parts, Dubin subsequently went back to the recordings and added his own layers of vocal horror. Apparently he wanted to make the album as harrowing as possible, but to be fair (especially given Dubin’s delivery) we’re talking very fine shades of the pitchest black if we want to differentiate the spectrum of grim that Khanate operates in. 

That being said, Clean Hands Go Foul is actually not as hard a listen (such statements being very relative) as one could expect. 

The guitar-feedback textures of opener “Wings From Spine” create an overall sonic landscape not quite as lonely and sparse as much of their work is. “In That Corner” takes this even further with O’Malley’s use of guitar ambience through hums and fractured feedback contributing to a track that sees Khanate at their most mournful and genuinely soulful. 

Spend long enough bound down in Khanate’s pit of horror and a certain auditory Stockholm Syndrome can occur, where it seems like everything the band does is automatically great, but the album’s third track “Clean My Heart” is one of the their less compelling numbers. Nevertheless the rather uneventful eleven minutes of drones, space and screams sets up the album’s gigantic thirty-two-minute-plus finale “Every God Damn Thing”. 

This final (and until the band reformed really final) piece is actually a pretty great example of how Khanate uses space and silence to amplify the impact of the music (if “music” is what this actually is). The track’s first eight or nine minutes is mostly silence with occasional tape squeals, but when Dubin finally warms up with lines like “Hell is every god damn thing” you know some escalation is coming. 

Still, the band never really gives in to any sort of obvious crescendo or payoff. They keep stretching out the space with their dark ambience and clattering bursts of deconstructed Metal. “Nuanced” might not seem the most obvious word to describe Dubin’s blunt screaming, but as with the rest of the band, the devil is in the detail, with neat little effects, layering and panning all enhancing the minimal content. 

Lines like, “Even flowers disgust” quickly remind the listener that Dubin was hellbent on ripping any potential fun out of proceedings. Jeez guys, I was actually quite enjoying myself. 

Put Khanate on in almost any setting and see people sharply turn to you like you just threw a fistful of rusty nails at their head. Be forewarned, this is far from comfortable listening, but that said, you might just love it down here in hell. 


Buy the albums here:


10 / 10 (Capture & Release)
9 / 10 (Clean Hands Go Foul)