KEN Mode – Null

Null Album Cover Art

KEN Mode – Null
Artoffact Records
Release Date: 23/09/22
Running Time: 34:53
Review by Dark Juan

Good afternoon, good gentlefolk. It is I, Dark Juan, and I am relaxing after a busy day of spending money I don’t really have and drinking lots of beers, even though there are 40 pints of Mexican-style cerveza in the pantry that need to be bottled and for their secondary fermentation to take place. Nevertheless, I managed to acquire a Special Hobby version of the Heinkel He100 in propaganda colours as the mythical Heinkel He113 nachtjaeger today. This caused Dark Juan considerable and prolonged excitement. Especially since I had only gone into the model shop to get some pale green paint. I also dragged Mrs Dark Juan into the shop thinking that it might upset some of the other modelling spods in there, and amuse me greatly, as I do actually HAVE a partner who doesn’t need inflating, but no, she managed to instantly strike up a conversation with the ONLY OTHER WOMAN in the shop, who, it had transpired, had only gone in there to drag her husband back out of it. 

Having lightened my wallet, we left and returned home, and it is here where you find me, having put the kit with the rest of the stash in the cupboard instead of, you know, actually fucking BUILDING it, and have instead sat down to run a discerning ear over the latest release from Canadian anarchic noiseniks KEN mode. KEN stands for “Kill Everything Now” in case you were under any illusions of KEN mode being a fancy-ass art-rock band, or something. First impressions count for much, you see.

Mrs Dark Juan has accused the proprietor of Halifax Modellers’ World of being a pusher of “plastic crack”. She has levelled the same accusation at world-championship level grumpy Yorkshireman and splendid and excellent friend Tony because he started selling Warhammer 40k stuff and has given  Dark Juan spare Primaris Space Marines…

Let me tell you, they absolutely aren’t going to be painted as Ultrasmurfs. I fucking hate the Ultramarines and Papa Smurf Roboute Guilliman as well.

Now, KEN mode describe themselves as Metallic Hardcore influenced Extreme Noise Rock. I would describe them differently – a shockingly violent combination of Godflesh, Swans, Einsturzende Neubaten and Cabaret Voltaire seems more accurate to my ear, ‘Lost Grip’ (a ten-minute epic with a glorious sublevel of backing vocal muttering “I’ll say anything for money” beneath the main vocal) being very similar to Godflesh and Swans blended together but with a human drummer and a bit of Neurosis. 

Dark Juan must make note of the vocals of one Jesse Matthewson. This is a man who sounds like he has very serious anger management and mental health issues. His wide-eyed, staring, vein-bulging delivery is intoxicating as he delivers nothing less than 148% commitment at all times. Punk fury drives the man and appears to wholly possess him, not unlike a Canadian Henry Rollins. Drummer (and brother to the unhinged maniac on vocals) Shane Matthewson is similarly possessed by madness as he pounds Jazz-fuelled polyrhythms out of his kit. Special mention must also go to Kathryn Kerr, whose work on the squawky sex horn twists the instrument from the sleazy, sexy sounds we are used to into a new metal weapon, all stabbing, staccato and spasmodic dissonance and jerkingly abrupt in execution. This is brought to the attention of the unsuspecting listener by slapping them vigorously round the chops on album opener ‘A Love Letter’ and especially on ‘The Desperate Search For An Enemy’.

The whole album has the same quality as Swans, Godflesh, Rollins Band and Omnibael releases. It is deeply shocking and violent, relentlessly uncomfortable listening, cold, dissonant and claustrophobic in the extreme. KEN mode play music as an extreme form of warfare, not for pleasure. It is grey, grim and repetitive, and ridiculously overpowered and heavy. The demented saxophone adds another twisted, malformed dimension to the industrial drone you are hearing and adds an aural motif that tells the listener that there’s something not right here. 

“This untasteful place. Something is broken, something is fucked.”

KEN mode are a cheerful bunch of fuckers and no mistake, appear to be absolutely au fait with the state of British politics currently, and that lyric in the first song leaves you in no doubt that you’re in for a bit of a dystopian bludgeoning throughout the album. It couldn’t be more timely or accurate considering that the UK Government and its energy regulator are doing precisely FUCK ALL to help their own populace during an energy crisis and has raised the price cap on energy by 80 fucking percent. Dark Juan is fomenting revolution. Who is with me? KEN mode can provide all the murderous noise marching songs we could ever need. When the tattooed and pierced defenders of the faith (being extreme music) take over the world it will be a better place. KEN mode are the apocalyptic soundtrack to the revolution. ‘The Tie’ amply displays this by being a slow-paced stomp through Swans-esque Shoegaze and being of the perfect tempo to grind politicians underfoot. They want us to picture a boot stomping on a human face forever? Bet they won’t be so keen when it’s their own face, will they?

I’m going to have to stop listening to KEN mode soon. They are making me want to go and finish the job Guy Fawkes cocked up years ago. ‘But They Respect My Tactics’ is spectacularly brutal and aggressive – all tight-faced, highly focused savagery and Jesse Matthewson spitting venom at anything and everything and everyone. I think it is safe to say I love KEN mode. They are the soundtrack to Dark Juan’s imagination. Especially the really dark bits no-one can ever know about.

“Null” is an excellently produced record. Every instrument, howl, scream, clank and cymbal crash is easily discerned even when the band are intent on flattening the listener with their egregious wall of noise, and the guitar is a masterfully produced thing. I’ve never heard tone like it. And the bass… It is not just low and rumbling, it’s visceral and threatening and doesn’t rumble so much as roar. In the same way a descending avalanche does.

Highlight of the album really is the centrepiece of it, the ten minute lone ‘Lost Grip’ which has everything from the Industrial feel of Einsturzende Neubaten, the fury of Godflesh, the delicacy of Swans and the political, right on savvy of Rollins all melded together in a cold, grey universe of a track that chills as much as it delights the ear of this jaded old rock hack. It’s an unremittingly desolate sounding song that conjures a mental image of a bleak winter battering the walls of a small home where frost is forming on the windows and the supplies are running low but the storm will not abate… “I don’t believe that you mean well” is a constant refrain through the song and Dark Juan can fucking RELATE to this in a big way…

If you like your music miserable, you’re going to fucking love this album. If you dig Industrial Drone, you’re going to fucking love this album. If you love Noise, Dissonance, Shoegaze, Metal or anything even slightly Gothic you’re going to fucking love this album.

Dark Juan fucking loves this album. In case you hadn’t guessed.

The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System (Le système breveté d’évaluation des éclaboussures de sang Dark Juan pour les Canadiens francophones lisant ceci) can do no more but offer KEN mode the full big tamale… 10/10 for one of the coldest, most viciously alienating records I have ever heard since Godflesh’s ‘Slateman/ Cold World’. And one of the most violent.

01. A Love Letter
02. Throw Your Phone In The River
03. The Tie
04. But They Respect My Tactics
05. Not My Fault
06. Lost Grip
07. The Desperate Search For An Enemy
08. Unresponsive

Jesse Matthewson − Vocals, Guitar, Piano 
Shane Matthewson − Drums 
Scott Hamilton − Bass, Backing Vocals 
Kathryn Kerr − Saxophone, Synth, Piano, Percussion, Backing Vocals 


Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Dark Juan and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

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