Label: Cold Spring Records
Of all the records to have come my way recently, Governance by Birmingham band khost is probably the most punishing. Combining harsh noise with an industrial stomp and muscularity, Governance is far from an easy listen; but at the same time, it’s one that’s relatively easy to sink in to. Whilst khost may excel at creating an atmosphere of utter darkness, filled with horrific malevolence, they do so in a way that includes just enough shades of light to make the darkness all the more effective, whilst also stopping it becoming overwhelming. This sense of contrast is vitally important, and helps make Governance be such a success.
Whilst Governance may make me think of a few different bands at varying points – with Godflesh and early Swans being the chief points of comparison – the one that really feels apt is The Body; specifically, their albums such as Christ, Redeemers where the Assembly of Light Choir added their angelic vocals to the band’s all-encompassing heaviness. Second track ‘Subliminal Chloroform Violation’ makes use of similar vocals, and the contrast with the industrial and noise-infused desolation surrounding them is remarkable. Additions such as this, and the occasional hint of melody, add an extra element to Governance that most bands exploring similar territory lack, and khost’s sound is all the richer and more effective for it.
Yet despite the inclusion of such elements, soul-crushing heaviness and aural punishment is at the heart of Governance, and any other aspect that khost make use of is ultimately in service to this aim. A track like ‘Cloudbank Mausoleum’, with its repetitive industrial metal punishment, is all the more effective for the traces of melody in the riffs. And like The Body, the atmosphere and heaviness conjured by khost has something human at its core, and there is the feeling that there is a deep well of emotion within the music – negative emotion, granted, but still something very human, that speaks of hurt and loss in very stark terms.
It’s notable that Governance feels much longer than its actual running time (just shy of 50 minutes). This is no negative, and actually speaks to the strength of the album – it almost creates the kind of void where time is a meaningless concept, and all that matters is the maelstrom the band conjure and hold the listener within. Whilst it could never be described as a pleasant experience, there is still something addictive about Governance, and the sense of catharsis that can be found within its soundscapes is remarkable. It may be a challenging, uncomfortable listen, but it is one that enriches the listener, and they will come out of feeling changed somehow. It is difficult to ask for more from music such as this, and Governance is an undeniable triumph. It may be abrasive, punishing, and deeply uncomfortable, but it’s also that rarest of things – an artistic success that also possesses a relatable, human edge.