The West Midlands of England has yet another grimy, hooded secret. One as cacophonous and electrifying as Birmingham duo Khost, however, surely cannot be suppressed much longer. Second album Corrosive Shroud (Cold Spring) begins with the sample-driven Industrial swell that defines their sound: a sonic barrage, delivered at an oft-crushingly slow pace, yet fed by walls of the most pulverising low-end chords you’re ever likely to experience.
With the band’s trademark, sampled Eastern chants giving a melodic yet eerie edge, opener ‘Avici’ forces Moby’s Play-era sound into a blender with the clashing steel of Godflesh and the unbearable might of Sunn O))). The howling roars of ‘Revelations Vultures Jackals Wolves’ are initially dwarfed by this unfathomable weight; the horror of their hatred and pain, however, remains undimmed and unmasked, whilst metallic clangs and mashing beats create a cauldron of boiling intensity.
The squalling chaos of début album Copper Lock Hell (Cold Spring) is somewhat replaced here by a more cohesive structure, yet no power is lost, instead being augmented by that heightened Asian influence which lends a unique and emotive diversion. Resonant strikes, when delivered, provide a terrifying alarm call: the slow, steadily pounding sticks of ‘Black Rope Hell’, for example, enter a brief period of quiet in the most invasive fashion whilst filthy, throbbing feedback is suddenly unleashed from the silence, crumpling one’s body. This segues into the magnificent ‘A Shadow On The Wound’, like a sludgy Aevangelist, the salve of those haunting wails a hypnotic contrast, yet as complementary as salt with chocolate. Here is the inexplicable magnetism of Khost – the ability to weave seamlessly the most offensive, deafening, programmed fear with moments of ethereal beauty, creating an experience as captivating as it is nerve-shredding. It’s during those involuntary tics of anticipation, the body often compelled to assume the foetal position for comfort, that one realises how stirring the sound is; an outpouring of emotion and energy, a stretched depiction of a primal scream, essential whilst undoubtedly polarising opinion.
The almost-tribal ‘VMIH’, its surrounding noise less of a contribution than before, exhibits the importance of the participation of rhythm, be it artificially or manually produced. Showing the willingness to incorporate other styles, the last two tracks are remixes of the opening salvo: the former heavily beat-led and mesmeric; the latter a more unsettling encounter awash with deep bass notes, that native intonation falling into oscillating effects and roar-strewn narrative, completing the creation of three songs from one. It’s pure art, invention with a purpose, brutal and occasionally unfathomable yet all the more natural for it.
Brimming with moments of great meaning such as the mournful Shoegaze and pensive poetics infiltrating ‘Inversion’; the exploding violence and skewing electricity of ‘Red Spot’; and the pulsating waves and crashing horror of ‘Bystander’; this is a startling, spellbinding piece of work. Having given us Sabbath, Napalm Death, Godflesh, and Anaal Nathrakh, Birmingham – and Khost – has just provided Metal’s latest evolution.