Hailing from Winnipeg, Canada, KEN Mode have always been releasing heavy, aggressive, but smartly presented albums. It's no surprise when their name stands for Kill Everyone Now Mode. Their last album was a slight departure from their usual fare, with a slightly lighter sound for their brand of noise rock. With Loved though, they are right back to their bombastic and sludgy best.
After short squeals of feedback, KEN Mode re-introduce themselves with a rumbling bass line and tense guitar scales, fitting of their creepy artwork; a grinning dark figure, that sets the scene for the album’s contents. Jesse Matthewson shouts and walls over the top, while scraping knife-edged riffs for the chorus of Doesn't Feel Pain Like He Should.
Through the rest of the first half of Loved, KEN Mode deliver heavy, Melvins inspired songs around cynicism, scepticism and collective societal negativity. Their lyrics are snarled and aggressive with sticky bass riffs clinging to loose guitar plucks. You can hear the aggression in every beat, cymbal hit and the strangling of their guitar necks. The band’s punk attitude is apparent even when a saxophone plays bizarre jazz over a repetitive guitar pick on The Illusion of Dignity, but especially so when Jesse spouts an anger-fuelled statement opening Feather & Lips which bounces and squeals at a much steadier pace.
The last few tracks are where the stand out tracks are. This Is A Love Test has a more subdued and clear bass line with a creeping sax improvising over the top, and with the poetic words and separated guitar ringing, it sounds like the soundtrack an art noir film; very dark and brooding, it's louder chorus moments breaking it up perfectly. Sandwiched between that and the closer, rolling drums fill out Fractures In Adults. Final song No Gentle Art is subdued yet again, but with a lingering build in volume that then bellows into an 8 minute Converge-like epic with Neurosis dirges.
KEN Mode have pulled through to bring their best album since 2011’s Venerable. Back are their lumbering bass and noise rock guitars along with their punk attitude; all a perfect foundation for their loudest and most negative fuelled album yet.
For fans of The Melvins, Jesus Lizard, Converge.
Loved is out August 31st through Season of Mist.
Photo Credit: Brenna Faris