(Season Of Mist)

01. Doesn't Feel Pain Like He Should
02. The Illusion Of Dignity
03. Feathers & Lips
04. Learning To Be Too Cold
05. Not Soulmates 02:46
06. Very Small Men
07. This Is A Love Test
08. Fractures In Adults
09. No Gentle Art

RATING: 8/10

Canada's KEN MODE has been doling out its unique blend of sonically and emotionally heavy music since the turn of the millennium. The band's sound includes elements of metallic hardcore and sludge wrestling atop a solid bedrock of noise rock. Sometimes dark and brooding, always ferocious, the group continues to shock and awe with a singular styled approach that is as immediate and visceral as it is pensive and sublime. The Winnipeg, Manitoba-based band instantly made waves with its debut, "Mongrel" (2003), before it burst into uncharted waters with vastly improved releases like "Venerable" (2011) and "Entrench" (2013). The ensemble returns now with its seventh long player: "Loved".

Subsequent to the aforementioned back-to-back barnburners, KEN MODE released "Success", an effort that stood head and shoulders above the majority of the competition, but it was lackluster as a KEN MODE release considering what the unit is capable of. Compared to the rest of the catalogue, "Success" is a more linear and sonically subdued. After a few years away from the fracas, the trio—including the brothers Jesse and Shane Matthewson as well as Scott Hamilton—returns the freight train from the detour back onto the tracks it was following on "Entrench", which preceded "Success". In a nutshell, "Loved" is less indie rockin' and more noise rockin', but it's more than that. Off-kilter grooves and metallic hardcore mesh with post-hardcore aesthetics and include a sense of urgency throughout. As the record begins with "Doesn't Feel Pain Like He Should", it's clear that the trio has indeed upped the ante. KEN MODE has become even more vicious. There's a tangible sense of rage that is presented with coarseness, a slight rough-around-the-edges feel and a spastic quality that encompasses confidence and more than just a little bit of competence in terms of technical precision and delivery. It's busy without feeling like an exercise in excess, nor is it a senseless blur. There is a method to the madness.

Elsewhere, "Feathers & Lips" proves to be one of the heaviest songs of both the album and the group's entire career. Jesse sounds like he's frothing at the mouth like a rabid, enraged dog while the surrounding cacophony comes across as though they are JESUS LIZARD on crack. Meanwhile, "Learning To Be Too Cold" plumbs the depths of post-hardcore atmospherics without sacrificing an ounce of heaviness.

KEN MODE, the first word being an acronym for Kill Everyone Now, most overtly dabbles experimentally with the tasteful, occasional employment of saxophone that adds an impressive layer of sound, texture and contrast. The instrument is used towards an explosive ending in punchy bursts in "The Illusion Of Dignity". Elsewhere, it is more appropriately woven into the calm ambience of "This Is A Love Test", augmenting the track's ominous jazz essence. Later, the instrument takes on a repetitive and hypnotic groove-laden shape in "No Gentle Art".

The trio's latest batch of songs can be utterly anxiety inducing, or anxiety relieving, depending on how one may wish to, or be able to, process what's going on. Collectively, on a musical and vocal level, there's a sense of struggle and survival underpinning "Loved". While plenty of heavy hitters in the hardcore arena have been content with driving tropes and clichés into the ground, as well as by attempting to impress with mindless, brute force, KEN MODE has stood apart because of its genuine quest to travel a unique path toward self-expression, one that can be ridden with angst as much as it can with fragility.


To comment on a BLABBERMOUTH.NET story or review, you must be logged in to an active personal account on Facebook. Once you're logged in, you will be able to comment. User comments or postings do not reflect the viewpoint of BLABBERMOUTH.NET and BLABBERMOUTH.NET does not endorse, or guarantee the accuracy of, any user comment. To report spam or any abusive, obscene, defamatory, racist, homophobic or threatening comments, or anything that may violate any applicable laws, use the "Report to Facebook" and "Mark as spam" links that appear next to the comments themselves. To do so, click the downward arrow on the top-right corner of the Facebook comment (the arrow is invisible until you roll over it) and select the appropriate action. You can also send an e-mail to blabbermouthinbox(@) with pertinent details. BLABBERMOUTH.NET reserves the right to "hide" comments that may be considered offensive, illegal or inappropriate and to "ban" users that violate the site's Terms Of Service. Hidden comments will still appear to the user and to the user's Facebook friends. If a new comment is published from a "banned" user or contains a blacklisted word, this comment will automatically have limited visibility (the "banned" user's comments will only be visible to the user and the user's Facebook friends).