Review: KEN Mode – Venerable

Apart from boneheaded ice-hockey fans who have just witnessed their team lose the final of the Stanley Cup, there has never been an angrier troupe of Canadians than KEN Mode. Yet whilst the average disgruntled hockey fan will express their disgust through the act of the good old fashioned riot, KEN Mode channel their vitriol into a terrifying aural beast.

Venerable is essentially comprised of the jazz-based atonality of Jesus Lizard, beefed up with a dose of abrasive contemporary metal in the mould of Mastodon before they tried to be Pink Floyd. It’s an initially befuddling miasma of bludgeoning riffs that dart hither and thither in an almost ubiquitous dissonance that marks conventional melodicism as some kind of immoral practice. Sure, melody exists if you dig hard enough, but only in the most twisted and mutated form, repeatedly spat out in a wretched and unrecognisable heap.

So it begins with ‘Book Of Muscle’, cemented to a brutal chug that sounds like the guitar’s strings are actually being punched such is their pulverising sound, the track forming an perfect summation of the fury yet to come. Vocals are doused with distortion, eliminating any chance of clarity in the midst of grating turmoil. Not that any distortion is required, given the vocalist’s tortured delivery, spilling contempt and acerbic anger in every furious snarl.

Tracks such as ‘Batholith’ advance at blistering pace, their goal to lay waste to eardrums whilst claiming no allegiance to any one time signature and frantically hurtling through space in a flurry of atonal and jagged riffs. ‘The Irate Lumberjack’ is the first of two extended tracks, rooted in an uncharacteristic simplicity and advancing at a measured march rather than the paranoid hyperactivity that characterises most of Venerable‘s shorter tracks. It sees KEN Mode at their most expansive and least direct, proving that for all their outward aggression they’re capable of much subtler arrangements.

The eight minute ‘Never Was’ is a particularly furious and uncompromising assault, a storm of guttural chug bookended by blankets of pure white noise whilst a particularly venomous vocal repeatedly declares that “Religion is a cancer”. Like acid on the ears, the coruscating noise seems potent enough to burn flesh. ‘Flight Of The Echo Hawk’ is perhaps the anomaly of the record, a lone bastion of relative clarity free from the throat destroying screams- offering brief shelter in the form of standard melodicism amidst the chaos.

KEN Mode may be a raging mass of bile but they are so only because they are aware of the truth of our failings. They choose to holler and scream and actively address the inconvenient truths and malfunctions within our societal systems as others react by burying their heads in the sand. The almost unfathomable vitriol is tied to some pretty impressive musicianship and a commendably high count of notes per second. Unfortunately, records like Venerablehold a limited appeal, but to those enamoured by aural violence, KEN Mode’s latest work is a required listen. It manages to be technical without alienating the non-instrument playing listener, socially aware without coming across preachy. In short, it’s a blast of pure terror; a visceral storm that is strangely enticing.

4 out of 5 high fives!

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