KEN Mode - Mongrel [Escape Artist Records - 2003]No, Nickelback is not the only Canadian contribution to rock music. We knew that already. But rejoice: among the people who will listen to Winnipeg’s Ken Mode, it’s quite safe to say that even the MTV-loving kinda listener won’t consider Nickelback as heavy anymore.
First, let’s start with an interesting story: where does the name of the band come from? Apparently, it was taken from Henry Rollins description of the mentality in the Black Flag camp when they managed to release My war after having had to go through a lot of legal hassle: they were on Kill Everyone Now Mode. There you go. It’s actually a perfectly fitting name: Ken Mode’s music takes no prisoner…
An obvious, although fairly lazy comparison would be Botch, due to the common mathcore attitude both bands share as far as odd time signatures and aggressiveness go. But Ken Mode sounds way more vicious, it sounds like the product of three rabid dogs who are not happy with just playing “normal” mathcore (if such a thing exists). If you give a little attention to the music, you will see surface the influence of bands that made important contribution to extreme heavy music. The noise rock of Unsane, the bass of Godflesh, the sludge of The Melvins… Sounds good, eh… And even better, they play more than just noise/math riffs: they are never afraid of launching a full-on metal attack with some straight in your face riffing. As far as the singing goes, well, I could say this about a lot of bands coming from the hardcore scene: cut the clean vocals! They are awful. You can’t sing. Don’t do it! You sound much better when screaming. And yes, Ken Mode vocalist does… Angry, bitter, threatening: the way a lot of screamer would like to sound but can’t quite manage to convincingly.
Mongrel is a punishing album. If they didn’t manage to kill you before the end, you will be in for a special treat, your ticket to a comfort zone for survivors: Likeliness is against you, the last song, the slowest, the most melodic, although still very dissonant. Nice work. Thanks. But if you like Nickelback, it’s pretty much unlikely you’ll make it…François Monti