01. The Book of Muscle
02. Obeying the Iron Will
04. The Irate Lumberjack
05. A Wicked Pike
06. Flight of the Echo Hawk
07. Never Was
08. The Ugliest Happy You’ve Ever Seen
09. Terrify the Animals
10. Mako Shark
Hailing from Winnipeg, Manitoba, this Canadian outfit has dished out their mix of noise rock, sludge metal and post-hardcore since their formation back in ’99. And since that time, having released four full-length albums, the first three sort of flying under the radar, KEN mode are looking to make a change in direction with their most recent album, Venerable, an album that will no doubt break them out of the mold of your everyday metalcore act.
Upon signing to Profound Lore Records, this is KEN mode’s first release through the label and with the talent of Kurt Ballou (Converge) on production duties, it’s clear to see KEN mode is off to a great start. Venerable takes a step in a new direction as it distances itself from the previous noisy, hardcore oriented albums, this time becoming more brooding and menacing in sound and delivery. Such tracks as “Never Was”, “The Irate Jumbuck” and the instrumental tracks “Flight Of The Echo Hawk” and “Terrify The Animals” showcase the bands new approach and sound as they unleash a wave of distorted riffs and drawn out feedback. Both instrumentals also serve as the perfect segue ways to their corresponding tracks instead of coming off as filler material, and they also add to the albums overall tone.
The albums magnum opus however and track that will not doubt standout among them all, is “Never Was”. It’s over eight minutes of slow-paced sludge metal and the general feeling gives you a sense of treading through thick mud. Over a minute of feedback and pounding cymbal hits opens the track to which then all there is a simple riff and the low, eerie whispering of vocalist Jesse Matthewson. The song shifts from moments of quiet serenity to thunderous thick/heavy chords, pounding drums and the deep bellow of “No god, never was.” It’s such a departure from previous KEN mode songs, that I found myself coming back to this track for multiple listens.
But even amongst the deep recesses of the album, there are tracks that resonate the past sound found on previous albums, offering up noise rock and progressive melodies that direct the album in a more rocking approach. The album starts off strong with “Book of Muscle” and continues right along with “Obeying the Iron Will” with sharp, frenzied riffing and bone smashing breaks. “Batholith” purely bludgeons the listener from the start and doesn’t let up at all, in fact this album as a whole is a swift punch to the face, leaving no bone unbroken. The albums closer “Mako Shark”, harkens back to classic KEN mode, being more rooted in hardcore with some catchy chugging riffs and the vocals being riddled with anger.
As stated earlier, with the production being handled by Kurt Ballou, the bands sound is well taken care of. All the instruments are beefed up, yet sound polished and crisp, while the vocals are given that extra touch to make them robust and apart of the sound, rather than being buried by it. They’ve shown their dynamics as a band on Venerable as everything comes together perfectly, from the arsenal of frantic riffs to the deep clobbering lows, KEN mode have proven that they aren’t staying in the background of the hardcore/metal scene.
If KEN mode haven’t been on your radar yet, this album is sure to put them there, and hopefully it places them among the top bands in the metalcore/sludge/noise genre, as they rightfully deserve more recognition.
KEN mode – Venerable