KEN mode’s blunt destruction takes on harsh twists, warped sounds on psyche-killed ‘Loved’

Photo by Brenna Faris

One of the worst feelings in the world is being strung along without someone just dealing with you honestly and, no matter how it may hurt, laying the truth on the line. Just tear off the bandage, no matter how much is stings, because knowing what’s genuine and what’s not provides you with real freedom and the chance to move on.

Canadian destroyers KEN mode never ever have been known for holding back their true feelings. Over the course of six records, these guys have bludgeoned audiences with their hybrid of hardcore, noise, and post-rock that are woven into songs that grab you by the throat and deliver truth. None of that changes on their molten seventh record “Loved,” one of the best of their career, and one that finds them taking even more chances. At this point, these guys could show up, whip out nine songs, and be done with it, and it would probably be pretty great. They don’t operate that way. Instead, we get panicked sax, different vocals approaches, and raw atmosphere that makes for a gripping, thunderous display. The band—the Matthewson brothers Jesse (vocals, guitars) and Shane (drums), along with bassist Skot Hamilton—just beats the shit out of you over and over, leaving raw nerves and hurt.

“Doesn’t Feel Pain Like He Should” opens the record with noise blurring before the hammer drops, and we are properly under way. Riffs race and spiral, like a plane engine out of control, while the burly, crushing assault does its damage. “The Illusion of Dignity” has guitars jarring and madness spreading, with Jesse wailing, “I don’t want to feel safe, I’ll never learn that way!” Things gets sludgy and pummeling, as the growls corrode, sax blurts in, and the ending sizzles in sound. “Feathers & Lips” is doomy and destructive, with muddy punching and shouts that poke and prod. Things remain utterly savage before the song ends bluntly. “Learning to Be Too Cold” is chunky and acidic, as the pace lays into you and leaves ample welts. “Life as a sick romance, lust has no mercy!” Jesse cries, as riffs tangle and then hit a downward spiral, leaving you in a dizzying hellscape.

“Not Soulmates” has a thrashy start, and then things get trickier, as Jesse warns himself, “This is not a good place, I need to escape.” Hardcore-style defiance bubbles to the surface, with the back end trying to take off your head at the neck. “Very Small Men” is really speedy but also has hints of playfulness. The shouts blurt poison, while the band heads into a punishing breakdown that should scramble your brains. “This Is a Love Test” has a thick bassline slithering, while the sax strikes again, rocking you awake. Jesse’s vocals are more spoken for the most part, as damaging shouts later make their way into the mix, and the tempo knifes through your chest and into your heart. “Fractures in Adults” has guitars and bass clashing at the gates, while Jesse howls, “How many times must I fade away?” The song it utterly aggressive and pissed off, as painful shouts and bloodshed playing bring the track to an end. Closer “No Gentle Art” is the big eye-opener of the record, as noise pummels, the guitars harshly carve a path with a rusty knife, and Jesse deliver this diatribe in speak-singing, repeatedly insisting, “Stop giving me hope!” like a stalking lover looking for any glimmer of light. The track gets more unhinged as it goes on, as the vocals get scarier, sax swirls into the mix, and psychotic detachment grows thicker. The end bathes in noise, coming off the hinges, smearing rust, and Jesse, one more time pleading, “Stop giving me hope,” as things dissolve in tears and blood.

“Loved” is a manic, brutal assault by KEN mode, and it feels like the band is revitalized with their new creations and increasing palette of sounds. This band always has been one on which you could rely sonically and from their lyrical approach, and they’ve never pulled a punch in their lives. This is a fire-breather for the end of summer, a record that can stick with you long into nature’s imminent decay.

For more on the band, go here:

To buy the album (North America), go here:

Or here (International):

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