Those who’ve known me for some time will have had their ears blunted by my constant praise for Birmingham, UK Industrial Doom duo Khost. Equal parts sampled violence, malevolent strings and vocal apocalypse, beautiful Eastern lamentations often deflect from that harsh path and create a nuance flavoured by the likes of VAST and Moby. Their fourth album Buried Steel (Cold Spring Records) sees a band now truly at ease with its style, happy to have edgy two-minute psalms populating a set in the knowledge that they serve a purpose for the whole.
Opener ‘We Will Win’ is a slow, driving march toward oblivion, Andy Swan‘s guitar rumbling and howling through a battering beat while his dry scour sends shivers down the spine. The first Arabic influence introduces ‘Blood Gutters 6x4x1’, and it’s time for clashing steel to accompany the sonic horror of the ambient crush, Damien Bennett‘s bass notes undercutting the Doom-laden carnage with an oscillating viciousness. ‘Intravener’ is a dubfest with a difference, Swan’s horrifying whisper dragging the track below the light of 80s Indie-flavoured synth and into a morass of disease.
It’s clear from the beginning that this is a more direct, claustrophobic record than Khost have previously released, yet it’s given air by some witheringly spoken, sinister shorts. The doleful poetry of ‘Yellow Light’ is delivered above the swirling, distant bombs of a warzone, its jagged edges the resulting shrapnel. While ‘Last Furnace’ crashes free from its Celtic-tinged opening with beats from hell, its echoing vocal blast coated in dirty pulses of rhythm guitar, the ensuing ‘Night Air’ is a mix of its two predecessors: Swan’s soft yet stark West Midlands accent speaking with occasional venom through a track punctuated by crushing bursts of guitar, bass and squalling electronic power. The nightmarish heavy breaths and trumpet squalls of the brief ‘Judgement Is Infallible’ and ‘Kent House’ meanwhile, the latter with its bizarre yet haunting ‘stream of consciousness’ poesy, continue to unsettle the mind and soul.
The growth of the band is shown most evidently in the eerie, pounding yet ambient ‘December Bureau’, those horns reprising their role as underpin to the electronic hostility which is nevertheless more measured here: a monochrome still of a rat-infested, desolate mill decaying in the mind as its soundtrack plays on. Another snippet of disaffected, fearful verse in the form of ‘Vandals’ precedes the robotic howling and sampled harshness of ‘Dog Unit’, with guitar effects droning and burning through the skin, scratched interference irritating the resulting wound alongside Swan’s fulminating scour. The final, chilling moment of spoken word, ‘Two’, is followed by the twitch-inducing oddity ‘A Non-Temporal Crawlspace’, where gentle chords and seductive flute lull the ears to sleep before a mighty cacophony awakens them.
The customary ‘version’ of an album track closes out here, Devon Dub fiend Mothboy remixing ‘Intravener’ into a heightened spirituality. It’s this embracing of modern Dance music that most strongly links the band with biggest inspiration and collaborator Justin Broadrick, but there’s always a special ingredient with this twosome – be it the Eastern chants, or the stark verse on show here – which gives their output a uniqueness that’s euphoric against the gut-churning depression, the asymmetry. Arguably this is Khost’s finest album since début Copper Lock Hell (Cold Spring Records), not least for its appropriate timing as the ideal accompaniment for this most unprecedented of times.
8 / 10