KEN Mode is a hardcore metal band from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada that can most easily be described as “loud.” They make the kind of music listeners would expect from a band whose acronym stands for “Kill Everyone Now.”
Formed in 1999, brothers Jesse and Shane Matthewson and long-time friend Daryl Laxdal found their sound in an intense and distinct blend of metal and punk. As their sound took form, so did their fan base and critical acclaim, going as far as to win a Juno Award, the Canadian Grammy, in 2012.
The band’s latest full-length venture, 2015’s “Success,” marked somewhat of a departure from their signature sound. KEN Mode traded in some of the more refined and precise qualities present on their previous records in favor of a more raw and vicious sound.
The sound of “Success” was unabashedly aggressive and that same chaotic sound is found once more on the band’s latest EP “Nerve.”
Every track on “Nerve” could seamlessly fit into “Success.” This should not come as a surprise, as the first three tracks on the new EP come from the band’s “Success” sessions, where they recorded the material for their last album with help from prolific rock legend Steve Albini.
For one reason or another, these tracks were left off the full-length record. While these songs could be seen as leftovers from the band’s last record, that does not mean they are lacking in substance. The quality of “Nerve” is on par with the rest of KEN Mode’s recent work.
Starting off strong with the unapologetically turbulent, “German Businessman,” KEN Mode’s latest starts with high energy and keeps its relentless pace throughout the duration of the record. Sonically there is not much variety. Each track adopts the same confrontational and abrasive mood. Fortunately, this is what KEN Mode does best. They are in their comfort zone when they are being as harsh as possible.
Lyrically, the group is impressively able to match the ferociousness of their desolate sound. Vocalist Jesse Matthewson passionately croons out misanthropic lines on each track, in a style resembling a sort of twisted ballad. Cynical standouts such as “Nothing is Sacred” are screamed in tone of bitter anguish.
Surprisingly catchy hooks like these have become a staple of KEN Modes music and are present all throughout “Nerve.” The groups penchant for contemptuous lyrics give a special flavor to their music that you really have to be in a specific headspace to appreciate. At the very least they make for memorable songs. It is hard to forget a song in which the singer repeatedly screams that he is going to “F— your dreams.”
After the first three tracks of new material, the rest of “Nerve” is filled out by various demos of tracks from KEN Mode’s previous albums. These songs provide interesting windows into the band’s progress and production that diehard fans will surely appreciate. For the more casual listener, they are just rawer versions of tracks that have been released for years now.
“Nerve” is short, sweet, and to the point. As long as fans feel the urge to break things, KEN Mode will have a place in the world of music.