Credit: Ebru Yildiz

During their initial run, from 2000 till 2006, New York City’s explosive Khanate helped usher in a new era of experimental heavy metal, setting off an ongoing wave of interest in bands such as Boris, Om, and Sunn O))) (which Khanate guitarist Stephen O’Malley had founded with Greg Anderson in 1998). But while some of their peers had grooves or riffs that could serve as an accessible entry point, Khanate were for the heads only—their music is incredibly dark and so challenging that it’s probably more apt to call it “grueling.” Composed of O’Malley, drummer Tim Wyskida (also of Blind Idiot God), and vocalist Alan Dubin and bassist-electronicist James Plotkin (both formerly of OLD), Khanate played an achingly slow, astonishingly heavy, meterless brand of esoteric doom metal that focused on volume, negative space, and repetition. The lyrics were equally difficult, exploring terrifying stories and subject matter: torture, death, murder. The track “Fields,” from the 2003 album Things Viral, takes the point of view of a killer begging his victim to tell him what it’s like to die.

Interest in Khanate has grown since their 2006 implosion, and they briefly reconvened in 2009 to release a fourth album, Clean Hands Go Foul (Hydra Head), though a full reunion didn’t pan out at the time. This month Khanate finally reemerged to announce a new album they’ve been secretly gestating since 2016. To Be Cruel (Sacred Bones) is Khanate in top form: punishing sonic misery, layers of atmosphere, bizarre chords and feedback, and Dubin’s spine-chilling howls. Its three tracks last just over an hour, and they are not for the faint of heart. To Be Cruel won’t make you feel good—in fact you might feel kind of icky—but it’s incredibly effective and satisfying, and well worth the wait.

Khanate’s To Be Cruel (Sacred Bones) is available through Bandcamp.