Release Date: Jun 16, 2015
Record label: Season of Mist
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Heavy Metal, Noise-Rock, Metalcore
A quick personal story: On my first listen through of Success, I found myself waiting at a crosswalk. I was fidgeting with my bike, jostling up and down in time with “These Tight Jeans” or “The Owl”. Soon, with a bit of creeping paranoia, I realized that the only other person waiting on the streetlight with me was an ex of mine. This was a person I had meant to patch things up with, but the air always became awkward when we were around each other, one of us attempting to wait out the other.
What with the return of TFI Friday and The Crystal Maze it would appear that ’90s nostalgia is getting ready to roll in earnest. It’s unlikely that KEN Mode will remember those two particular bastions of UK programming, being from Winnipeg, Manitoba, but on their sixth album the band has decided to pay homage to the sounds and bands that influenced them, and there’s a distinct ’90s grunge and hardcore theme that flavours Success. Brothers Jesse and Shane Matthewson, along with current bassist Skot Hamilton, have dug back into their record collections (which, on this evidence consist of a lot of Dischord, Touch And Go and Am Rep albums) and produced a record that is entrenched in flannel, angular riffing, and appropriately enough, is an inspired take on the nature of success.
On their sixth album, Canada-based KEN Mode have scrapped much of their hardcore leanings in favor of the abrasive noise-rock of Jesus Lizard and Big Black (whose frontman, Steve Albini, produced 'Success'). From the first note, the album throbs to the beat of its own diseased heart, barreling forward with percussive riffs, lunging beats and schizophrenic rants. Frontman Jesse Matthewson, meanwhile, matches the musical chaos with demented lyrics like “I can’t stop thinking about your skin” (“I Just Liked Fire”).
On their sixth album, Winnipeg-based noise rock group KEN mode open up and calm down a bit, stepping away from the deafening aural assault of their previous albums for something more subtle and introspective. The band eases up on the hardcore tempos and metal riffs on the Steve Albini-recorded Success, showing more dynamic range and introducing elements such as strings and more restrained vocals. This is not to say that the band has become polished and radio-friendly, though; the abrasive, screeching cello and unhinged, caterwauling vocals (courtesy of Oxbow's Eugene Robinson) toward the end of six-minute opener "Blessed" are simply an intriguing new approach to the group's sonic maelstrom.
Success begins with a peal of feedback, merging into an ugly sea of typically sludgy, bass-dominated, downtuned riffs. So far, so KEN mode. The Manitoban trio have been releasing records for over a decade now, making a name for themselves in the underground with ludicrously heavy doses of off-kilter hardcore-infused noise rock. Success sees them take the obvious – if hardly ill advised – step of working with Steve Albini.
Jesse Matthewson hopes you buy into his disgust and anger. During the nine tracks of his trio KEN mode’s sixth album, Success, the acerbic singer lashes out at rules of order, lambasts illusions of intimacy, and lampoons lives of day jobs and cubicle labor. During the slow, seething closer "Dead Actors", he asks when you last did something that mattered.
Jesse Matthewson and KEN Mode know how to pick their angry dude idols. The Canadian outfit takes its name from Henry Rollins’ old tour motto: “Kill Everyone Now.” The various howlers, pummelers, and seethers from hardcore, doom, and sludge metal cast long shadows on KEN Mode’s catalog. On their fifth album, Success, they more fully embrace Steve Albini, both incorporating more of the Big Black frontman’s particular shade of sonic blackening and bringing him on to produce.