Music

KEN mode Turn Back the Clock with 'Loved'

Canadian extreme hardcore act KEN mode makes a return to its proper, overwhelming form with their sardonically nihilistic new record, Loved.

Loved
KEN Mode

Season of Mist

31 August 2018

Formed by brothers Jesse and Shane Matthewson, KEN mode became one of the great metallic hardcore acts of the 2000s. With an immediate and aggressive sound, drawing influence from diverse sonic areas, the band created a darker and oppressive aesthetic with their brew of hardcore music. With that as their focal point, KEN mode unleashed a barrage of great albums, from the early days of Mongrel and Reprisal the band reveled in their no holds barred and sinister hardcore approach. But, it was in 2011 with the release of Venerable that KEN mode really found their footing, building on to their extreme vision with a much deeper focus. The weight of sludge, the cold, mechanical touch that post-hardcore can produce and the asphyxiating elements of noise rock, all found their way into Venerable, showcasing the band at its best. Even more impressive was their return in 2013 with Entrench.

The only misstep in this series of albums was Success, the band's previous full-length. Following their two greatest releases in Venerable and Entrench, Success arrived with a much more straightforward quality, seeing the band take on a more explicitly indie and noise rock quality. In leaving behind many of the elements that made their sound and vision so inspiring, KEN mode produced a record that was, for the most part, quite flat. Following its release, the band members focused on some different endeavors, with Jesse and Shane launching their own music business management services company, and bassist Scott Hamilton participating in releases from Adolyne and Greylight District. But, it feels like this break was necessary, and it has fueled the fire for KEN mode, leading to the release of Loved.

The new album is a return to the sound of Entrench, featuring the far-reaching sonic influences of KEN mode. The cyclothymic riffing, directly adapted from post-hardcore structures, becomes the tip of the spear for this record. The start of "Doesn't Feel Pain Like He Should" highlights this spasmodic rendition from the band, while the breaks of the track contain some of the old-school punk energy. This dynamic between the traditional hardcore punk groove and the post-hardcore aesthetics is a key element of Loved, and sees the band balance between the two throughout the record.

"Not Soulmates" for instance features a combination of '90s hardcore punk motifs and the more polished and technical side of post-hardcore. The result is impressive, and it also leads to further alchemical machinations, as is the case with the dark hardcore tone that "Fractures in Adults" create. In that instance, the noise rock element penetrates through the post-hardcore grooves and results in an impressive manifestation.

While the noise rock element gives the record its dissonant edge, the sludge influences provide the backbone for most of the tracks. "Feathers & Lips" features some of the heaviest material of the record, with KEN mode going into a recital of heavy, dirty riffs. The combination of sludge with noise also yields impressive results, as is the case with "The Illusion of Decay", where the dissonant edge crushes over the slow, chugging guitars to create an inharmonious result.

Further experimentations add to the complexity of the band's sound. The saxophone in "This Is a Love Test" provides one of the more mellow moments of the record, changing the ambiance and morphing it to a dark jazz lounge. That soon disappears as the band returns to its furious recital later on the track, but it is the build-up to that makes it so impressive. In a different manner, KEN mode explores the ambient territory with the closing track of the record, "No Gentle Art". Delivering a ritualistic progression, the band slowly builds up this subtle beast with a circular, repetitive rendition. The inclusion of the sax in this instance is completely different, arriving with a harsher quality, showing its morphing capabilities.

All these elements add to the overarching theme that KEN mode explore, and that is this feeling of anguish and asphyxiation. Many of the hardcore bands in the late '90s and '00s were able to conjure an aggressive sound, filled with immediacy and urgency. But, for KEN mode that is not enough. Their music features a predominant, dystopian characteristic, which is, in turn, met with a sardonic response. It is the element that was most missed in Success, and its return in Loved is what makes the record so exciting.

8
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

The Top 20 Punk Protest Songs for July 4th

As punk music history verifies, American citizenry are not all shiny, happy people. These 20 songs reflect the other side of patriotism -- free speech brandished by the brave and uncouth.

Books

90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.

Music

Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

‘The Avengers’ Offer a Lesson for Our Time of COVID-19

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.

Music

Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.

Music

Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.

Books

First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?

Reviews

HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.

Music

Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.

Music

How Lasting Is the Legacy of the Live 8 Charity Concert?

A voyage to the bottom of a T-shirt drawer prompts a look back at a major event in the history of celebrity charity concerts, 2005's Live 8, Philadelphia.

Music

Jessie Ware Embraces Her Club Culture Roots on Rapturous 'What's Your Pleasure?'

British diva Jessie Ware cooks up a glittery collection of hedonistic disco tracks and delivers one of the year's best records with What's Your Pleasure.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.