KEN Mode, Fight Amp, the Swan King | Burlington | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader

KEN Mode, Fight Amp, the Swan King Recommended Agenda Early Warnings (Music) Soundboard Image

When: Sun., June 21, 9 p.m. 2015

Blaring, offensive noise-rock has long been the white-hot pulse at the frigid core of Manitoba’s KEN Mode. On their last couple of albums, however, guitarist-vocalist Jesse Matthewson and his drummer brother Shane—and a forever-and-ever-revolving door of bass players—forged monolithic cliffs of metal-tinged wailing and nihilistic, bloody-murder vocals. Venerable (2011) and Entrench (2013) are bigger and meaner and more in need of the sign of the horns than anything else KEN Mode made previously. And thanks in part to a 2012 Juno Award win for “Metal/Hard Music Album of the Year,” the road-doggin’ band enjoyed some well-deserved recognition for the first time in its decade-plus existence. On the new Success (Season of Mist), the Matthewsons get back to basics in a not-so-subtle way by first and foremost recruiting noise-rock pro Steve Albini to engineer the album and then seriously crudding up the gloss of their more metal sound. Have no fear, the growling bass still sounds like someone sawing a wrought-iron fence with a baseball bat (“Blessed”), and Jesse still shoots bullets from his guitar, but the breathing room Albini creates, especially for the drums (as is his way), makes Success much looser than its more compressed predecessors—which in turn adds some weirdly danceable swagger to a track like “These Tight Jeans.” Though it occasionally dials back the aggression in favor of free-wheeling snark—and though a track like “Management Control” flies a little too close to early-aughts beard rock—Success represents an ode to the Unsanes and Jesus Lizards and Big Blacks of yore. And how on earth could that be a bad thing?. —Kevin Warwick

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