Over the past decade, Winnipeg, Canada’s KEN Mode — who took their name from Henry Rollins’s acronym for Kill Everyone Now (as detailed in his book Get in the Van) — have evolved from a bracing hardcore metal band into something more experimental and complex. The band’s fifth album, Entrench, is their most inventive yet, matching raw musical gristle and asymmetrical acrobatics with unexpected sonic flourishes, from the scribbling violins of the opening cut “Counter Culture Complex” to the undistorted arpeggios and pensive piano of the closer “Monomyth.”
Throughout, frontman and guitarist Jesse Matthewson alternates between propulsive power chord volleys, scribbly post-hardcore configurations and terse melodic licks and the band responds with correspondingly varied tempos, from the barreling “Your Heartwarming Story Makes Me Sick” to the militant, mid-paced “The Terror Pulse.”
Most of the vocals are harsh and abrasive, but Matthewson throws a striking change-up into album highlight “Romeo Must Never Know,” which builds and dips in intensity over seven-plus minutes of minor-key melodies that are equal parts Fugazi and Sonic Youth. For KEN Mode the heaviest music is only limited by imagination.