April 18, 2013

KEN Mode - Entrench

By Red.

Sculpture by Ben Bonner

The word entrench is defined as “to place oneself in a position of strength”. It is an interesting idea when applied to music in this day and age; fans and critics alike expect bands of all stripes to innovate and move forward from release to release. An experienced band will want to cater to their strengths.

How does this apply to KEN Mode’s new full-length? The band (or, more specifically, the Mathewson brothers and their latest bass player) has created a work that exemplifies their positives and seeks to explore new territory, albeit in a tentative fashion.

Photo by Carmelo Española.

Much of Entrench follows the template that KEN Mode has been using for the better part of a decade: hardcore shouts over dissonant ringing chords and unadorned drumming. There’s also the interplay between brothers to consider. I imagine that this provides the “professional” sound of their records. Despite playing a style rooted in hardcore and noise (hence all those ringing dissonant chords), KEN Mode has rarely sounded lo-fi, especially purposefully. But at the same time, they’re not playing something as stringent as tech-death; there is a certain looseness to the proceedings, especially this time around. In fact, what I enjoyed most about Entrench is that nothing seemed to be forced. Indeed, on their last album Venerable I thought there were some songs that were either too long or that focused too much on a certain texture so much that I found it grating. This is a pleasant listen, even though the style of music played is (intentionally) noisy and discordant.

Photo by Carmelo Española.

To me, the obvious highlights are the opener “Counter Culture Complex” and the two tracks that show the most marked departure from not only this album, but the rest of their work, “Romeo Must Know” and “Monomyth”. These latter tracks are quiet and contemplative. “Monomyth” even has a string section written by bassist Andrew LaCour. I classify these songs as a tentative step forward is because they’re not connected to the style that listeners familiar with the band would identify them with.

Entrench is a worthwhile addition to the band’s catalogue; I hope that the switch from Profound Lore to Season of Mist pays dividends as well.

  1. KEN Mode are chronically underrated. True heirs to the Kiss It Goodbye/Deadguy throne. Although that might be why they're chronically underrated.

    This one might be my favourite album of theirs so far.

    1. Well, they did get that Juno award :) I think this is better Venerable, which is the only other album of them I know.