KEN mode deliver some of the most vicious and bitter material of their career on their eighth studio album, Loved.
Since the release of 2003’s Mongrel, the Winnipeg trio have been pushing and refining their unique blend of metallic hardcore and noise rock, expertly balancing between the angularity of bands like Deadguy and the rusted grooves of Amphetamine Reptile alumni such as Unsane. The result is intricate, rhythmically-complex chaos that is often unyielding in its assault, but leaves room for space and experimentation when needed. The band seemed to reach this apex of riff-happy madness on 2013’s Entrench, and then took a slight detour to focus more on their noise rock influences on 2015’s Success. On the highly-anticipated Loved, the band seem to capitalize on the best of both of these extremes and push them to the brink. The result? A harsh, noisy opus hellbent on causing physical and psychological harm.
“Doesn’t Feel Pain Like He Should” kicks off the record with an earsplitting bang and gives the listener a bit of an idea how much pain they are in for. The song is a hellacious bombardment of obtuse, jittering guitar riffs, tumultuous drumming and caustic bass lines, all of which benefit from excellent production that hits the sweet spot between polished and grimy. Vocalist Jesse Matthewson delivers his familiar, venomous snarl over this squirming madness, which concludes in a bellowing, off-kilter groove that feels like a bomb detonating.
“The Illusion of Dignity” dials back the metallic, serpentine guitar work for some heart attack-inducing, disfigured sludge. The song lurches along with an ugly, angular groove that groans and squeals like the inner workings of a malfunctioning machine, eventually becoming engulfed in noise and squalling saxophone licks courtesy of Kathryn Kerr, who lends her talents to other tracks on the record as well. This slow-burning, lumbering approach is also employed in the album’s closing track, “No Gentle Art”. The aptly-titled, eight-minute behemoth builds from quiet, menacing beginnings into a city-leveling, down-tuned stomp of bludgeoning riffs and walls of face-melting feedback.
Tracks such as “Feathers & Lips”, “Not Soulmates” and “Very Small Men” keep the insanity coming in abundance and showcase KEN mode at their most unforgiving. These particular cuts feature healthy doses of jagged, frantic riffs that careen into blood-pumping grooves, and further into bursts of guitar-generated noise. In contrast the album’s seventh track, “This Is a Love Test”, briefly breaks the mold by shifting between extremes of seasick, noir jazz sensibilities, and twisted and atonal instrumentation that will leave the listener discombobulated.
KEN mode‘s Loved is arguably one of the group’s darkest and harshest creations. Listeners definitely won’t feel loved by the end of it.
Release Date: August 31, 2018
Label: Season of Mist
Favorite Tracks: “The Illusion of Dignity”, “Feathers & Lips”, “Not Soulmates”, “This Is a Love Test” and “Fractures in Adults”
For Fans Of: Today Is the Day, Deadguy, Knut, Keelhaul, Unsane and Coalesce