Review Summary: A re-examination of metalcore.
I’m sure we’ve all read our fair share of reviews that begin by saying how much they “loathe” where metalcore has gone throughout the past ten years. Generally speaking, it’s mostly negative criticism that’s about as interesting to read as a five-day-old business section in a newspaper. To further bore the reader, the review than goes on to compare the horrible trash band to the likes of the fabulous three core bands of the sub-genre (Converge, Botch, Coalesce) that are not the untouchable deities hardcore metal fans have praised them to be. Before I start to fall into the typical-metalcore-review clichés, your attention should be drawn to the truth that quality metalcore still does exist without having to name-drop the big three. Mennonite
, KEN mode’s third album, is an overlooked metalcore treasure that probably missed ship as a result of the amount of negative attention that metalcore fans were throwing at their beloved music instead of looking for new and innovative bands that are shape-shifting an otherwise stagnant sound. Venerable
is KEN mode’s fourth album and first for death/black/ noise label Profound Lore Records, which is an odd choice for a label that is taking heavy metal into unexplored territory. At the same time, this also makes sense why they would be picked up by such an innovative label like Profound Lore due to Venerable’s
fresh take on a sub-genre most often criticized for being generic and less forward-thinking.
Not to intentionally destroy the integrity of this review with a typical name-drop, but I would like to point out the bands large step-up from the noisy, hardcore excursions of their debut to their menacing huge sound on Venerable
is courtesy of producer Kurt Ballou (Converge axeman/ main songwriter). Like Converge, Ballou knows how to beef up the production while maintaining an obnoxiously noise-packed guitar/ bass sound with a clobbering rhythm section. The rest is left up to KEN mode who cut plenty of swaths through decimating riffs, bass tumbling breaks, and a devastatingly brutal drum pounding. While this description holds up with amazing results throughout Venerable
, the huge arsenal of riffs wouldn’t be so spectacular if it wasn’t for a keen knack in the bands song-writing department. When I mention song-writing, I mean KEN mode has a vast approach to dynamics that really makes this album come together so well. “Obeying The Iron Will” is a lesson in how to do post-hardcore properly with an infectious lead that takes the song into a face smashing breakdown (for those of you who are gay and still think breakdowns are still cool to talk about) and further ends in an intense crescendo riff frenzy that would leave any concert go’er exhausted in a live setting. This is just a few of many examples of vibrant musical direction the band has taken in achieving its ultra thick, heavy/ heady sound, but where the band really shines is the sharp contrasts in their sound. Hidden beneath the passages of the songs are disturbingly quite sections that are struck down by powerful blows of fury. The best use of this can be found on Venerable’s
centerpiece ‘Never Was’ that stretches it’s eight minutes into a slow-paced grinder of bleak emptiness and mind-crushingly apocalyptic slaughter.
is more than a metalcore album, it’s an example as to where the sub-genre can pushed with stunning results. To add to the clichés of review writing for metalcore, I would like to add that when future discussions of metalcores big three are mentioned, hopefully KEN mode will become number four.