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KEN Mode’s Success: A Good Record, if Not a Good Metal Record

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If you’re looking for a good metal record, stop reading here.

There is nothing death/djent/stoner/thrash/metalcore about Success, the sixth album from the brotherly-led KEN Mode.

What Success does sound like is the strain of noisy post-punk and grunge that bubbled up in the late 80s. Loud bands with analog angst, little melody, and a bit of artistic pretension… and the kind of guys who probably fucking hated metal.

It’s an unusual but interesting turn for Mode, whose past offerings have veered more metallic hardcore than Touch & Go/AmRep. Engineered by Steve Albini (Nirvana, The Pixies, and, uh, Bush), Success is often tuneless, especially vocally. But if the warbles of David Yow or PiL-era John Lyndon entice you, you’re in for a treat.

In a way, the whole album is a series of outliers, small variations on a noisy, sarcastic dirge. “I would like to learn how to kill the nicest man in the world,” vocalist Jesse Matthewson spews in “These Tight Jeans,” getting a female callback in the album’s lone instance of melody. Violins prop up “The Owl,” while a fat bass line dominates “I Just Liked Fire.”

Then again, maybe it’s all a joke. Matthewson spews a line like “A day in southern Manitoba could not be more sublime” and you can almost hear the eye roll… except, in context, he might be serious. Hard to tell.

Kidding or not, Success uh, succeeds because it embraces its musical ambitions. It’s a lo-fi, imperfect album at odds with its metal neighbors, but one that invites more than a cursory listen. And props to the recent tide of bands, including Title Fight and Liturgy, who feel comfortable pivoting when their audience may not.

Don’t like it? Joke’s on you.

KEN Mode’s Success comes out June 15 on Season of Mist. You can check out the track “Blessed” here and pre-order the album here.

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