Review: Khan ‘Creatures’

YouTube is a wonderful place. Granted, it is also a dangerous echo chamber which, based on the video recommendations it makes to me, seems to think that I am a transgender-communist-metalhead who occasionally enjoys episodes of Peppa Pig. But generally speaking, the good outweighs the threat to society as we know it.

Khan 'Creatures'
Khan ‘Creatures’ Artwork

It was during one of my very few spare hours of YouTube surfing that the algorithm that controls everything I do and say suggested that I should listen to a band from Australia called Khan. My initial reaction was that I wasn’t much of a fan of the band name (YouTube was confused as to whether this made me racist, or merely not a fan of Star Trek) but the album artwork won me over, so ‘play’ was pressed.

Khan are from the Melbourne area and Creatures is their third full-length. It was released on Full Contact Safari Records back in February of this year, so this review comes a few months after its birth. The good news for those of us in The Old Country is that Full Contact Safari have a rather spiffing website that can sell you everything in exchange for the King’s pound, and they ship from mainland Europe, so postage is quick and very reasonable. I got myself a very nice matt-finish CD digipak, but the forthcoming vinyl looks even more special.

So, what do Khan sound like? Well, it’s kind of like psychedelic laidback prog stoner… which sounds ridiculous, but you’ll love it. On Creatures, Khan manages to be heavy without sounding out of breath, and effortlessly melodic without resorting to rehashed tropes that you’ve heard one hundred times before. In short, it’s bloody marvellous.

The album starts with the track Slow, which initially does exactly what it says on the tin. A rolling bass line goes hand in hand with a shimmering guitar line and a simple but effective drum loop (manmade, obviously). At the three-minute mark, the fuzz pedal gets mashed and the riff kicks in. As I mentioned earlier, it’s an effortless, laidback type of heavy that I really enjoy. Then at five minutes, we have a section that reminded me of the band Karnivool – another band from that corner of the world that I have a lot of time for.

And so, to the vocals… and this is where I’ll piss some people off with my comparison… there’s just a touch of Kings of Leon about them (minus the southern drawl, obviously). This is totally meant as a compliment, by the way, because both of these fellas have got some serious pipes. What baffles me is that Khan’s second album, Monsoons, was a totally instrumental affair. Don’t waste what God gave you, boys!

it’s an effortless, laidback type of heavy that I really enjoy…

The second track, How Old, continues things along a similar road, but with a slightly faster tempo and greater sense of urgency. The basslines drive a bit more, and the drums are hit just that bit harder. Conversely the guitar work gets far more psychedelic here, and the extended solo – whilst difficult to describe – takes the track home really well.

And then on to Follow – for me this is the centrepiece of the album, both by virtue of it sitting at track three, and through it seeming to sum up everything Khan have to offer at this point. The almost monosyllabic vocals together with the staccato rhythm build-up to the introduction of a guitar line that mimics the sound of orchestral strings, only to be quickly replaced by a solo that could just as easily sit on the most recent Cave In album. I think Cave In are a good touchpoint for how the rest of the track then progresses. Both bands have a similar feeling of doing whatever they damn well please, but happily for us as listeners, whatever they damn well please comes out as absolute aural candy. Khan clearly aren’t as heavy an outfit and come from more of an indie background rather than hardcore, but the outcomes are equally worthwhile.

The second half of the album starts with Eyes, Lungs, Arms & Mind, the early minutes of which are about as close to Tool territory as Khan gets without ever getting into full-on Maynard and Co. worship, thankfully. It’s probably the most conventionally heavy track on the album thus far, with guitar riffs dominating the latter part of the song in a way that they hadn’t done to this point.

Confusion starts with another great bass riff (Creatures as a whole has far more than its fair share of them!) and chiming guitars which are reminiscent of where we started with Slow. It builds and adds possibly the most aggressive vocal performance on the record. One thing I’m taking for granted this far into the album is how great the production is. It is all too easy to overlook an album where everything sounds just right, but a strong production team is certainly one of the things Khan have in their armoury.

The album closes with the title track, Creatures. Khan have been rather brave here as they bucked the trend of putting the biggest, longest, heaviest, and most complex track at the end. Yob are maybe the most obvious purveyors of this strategy, and it’s one that undoubtedly works, but Khan have instead decided to leave us with a relative lullaby. The track slowly ebbs, flows and pulses its way to a quiet fade out after five minutes, and it works perfectly.

So, as you can probably tell from the inane scribbles, I really rather like Creatures. It’s got good songwriting, it sounds fantastic, and the playing is stellar. My one Khan-related regret at this point is that I didn’t know about the band just a year earlier. They did a short European tour in 2022 as the Covid lockdown was lifted, and I missed it. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before they return to these shores and bringing a Creatures follow-up would make it an even more welcome visit.

Label: Full Contact Safari Records
Band Links: Official | Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram

Scribed by: David J McLaren