By Matt Hinch
I’m writing this on the day the Juno Award nominees are being announced and while all the bands nominated in the Metal/Hard Music category are stellar, they fall a year short of the honour of being the very first recipient in that category. That distinction went to KEN Mode and their 2011 album, Venerable. And their newest, Entrench ,should have this Manitoban trio also becoming the first to bring home the award twice.
Winning a Juno seems to have pushed the band further in their pursuit of mathcore madness as Entrench is even more incendiary than its predecessor. As experienced on opener “Counter Culture Complex” the brothers Matthewson, Jesse and Shane (guitar/vocals and drums respectively) share a musical bond; one made stronger with the addition of bassist Andrew LaCour. The Matthewsons are like the hydrogen, LaCour the oxygen forming a molecule with all the incredible properties, fluidity and strong connection of water. The energy required to break apart the results of the union — their superbly tight performance – rivals only the energy they put out.
Riffs jump like electrons between valences, moving so fast you can’t even prove their location at any given time. Not only are many of the riffs light speed within themselves, they turn on a dime flitting back and forth destroying any inkling the listener has of settling in. Complacency is removed from the equation. Complacency is actually a lot of what Entrench appears to be fighting against. The complacency of what modern society has become. The prevailing sense of entitlement, the need to impress, living our lives according to fictitious standards of success. “Your Heartwarming Story Makes Me Sick” in particular strikes a chord. “I hope you enjoy slaving away for someone else’s dream/Just so your wife can have a bigger fucking house” – how many of us live that every day?
While the first half of the album deals mostly with external frustration, the second half is more internal. The two separated by the comparatively low-key “Romeo Must Never Know” which provides a respite from the fury of the tracks both preceding and following, yet no less poignant.
The frantic pace returns on “Secret Vasectomy” as Jesse (we’re assuming) faces struggle, his “mind dances like a mongoose around a cobra.” A fitting descriptor of the overall KEN Mode aesthetic. The band puts forth a head spinning array of riffs lesser bands could only dream of. As chaotic as it seems and sounds the structure of the riffs and the way the are pieced together to compliment the moods of the album makes Entrench as catchy as West Nile virus; a proboscis of efficient technicality straight to the nerves.
Entrench is incredibly dense. The expanse of which is loaded with claustrophobic and disorienting music yet is tempered by songs and moments that allow for breathing and contemplation, especially the haunting and peaceful “Monomyth” in which the listener’s heart can return to a semblance of its normal rhythm. Entrench may appear pessimistic and cynical but it is closer to being realistic. No candy coating, no looking the other way. Being real sometimes means making yourself heard and KEN Mode do so brilliantly. Vocally unrepentant and musically explosive, Entrench is like a Pulp Fiction style shot of adrenaline to awaken the unresponsive consciousness. To say this album is an early contender for album of the year is not unwarranted. KEN Mode’s execution here is nothing short of outstanding and if the rest of Canada’s wealth of metal talent want a shot at next year’s Juno, they’ve got some serious catching up to do.
(Season Of Mist)
Entrench will be released via Season Of Mist on March 15th