Like death and taxes, you can count on KEN Mode to deliver a new record every two to three years. Album number seven from the Winnipeg noise-rock veterans comes on the heels of a trio of Juno-nominated releases, the most recent being 2015’s Success. (Ironically, it didn’t win.)
This nine-track, 35-and-a-half-minute effort seems to be ironically named, with songs like “Not Soulmates” and “Learning to be Too Cold” not exactly giving off that loving feeling. The album kicks off with “Doesn’t Feel Pain Like He Should,” a frantic, driving three-minute stomper that’s surely not the feel-good hit of the summer. The killer breakdown around the two-minute mark will probably cause some pain in the pit, mind you…
From there, they channel the slowcore likes of Melvins and Killdozer on the jagged, rocky “The Illusion of Dignity,” clocking in at 4:43. Its verses are pure vocal vitriol, and it even has a saxophone solo. (Winnipeg’s Alright if You Like Saxophone?) “Feathers & Lips” slows things down even more to the pounding, chugging sludge of Primitive Man played at Crowbar tempos. And “Learning to be Too Cold” is pretty cold, indeed, to say nothing of the eight-and-a-half-minute album closer “No Gentle Art.”
“Not Soulmates” is another solid slice of noise rock, with a rumbling, grumbling bass line beneath some caustic Unsane angst, with the chilling refrain of “We owe you nothing!” “Very Small Men” takes a similar, but slightly more aggressive approach, while “This is a Love Test” brings back the sax in a brooding number with a spoken-word verse… but maybe the heaviest chorus on here. It’s quite the mindfuck.