Entrench, the latest album from Winnipeg metallic hardcore and noise-rock warriors KEN Mode, has some mighty high expectations to live up to. The record follows 2011's iconoclastic Venerable, an angry and challenging release that ultimately won the band the inaugural Juno Award for Metal/Hard Album of the Year in 2012, the first year the award was offered.
With such a high benchmark to live up to, KEN Mode set about making a very different kind of record with Entrench. The band took risks changing up a successful formula, but ultimately they believe these changes in process made Entrench a stronger record.
Rather than continuing the same angry misery that has characterized the emotional tone of all their past releases, KEN Mode decided to go for gallows humour on Entrench. Jesse Matthewson, who supplies vocals, guitars and lyrics for the band, tells Exclaim! that the tone was established while working on an early draft of Entrench with Craig Boychuck (who recorded their Reprisal and Mennonite records) in January 2012.
"When I was doing the vocals with him and mixing it he said, just based off the song titles and the things that I was screaming, it sounds like this album us going to be a black comedy," Matthewson explains.
He adds that many of the song titles, which tend to have a biting cruelty to them, came from conversations that he had with his brother and KEN Mode's drummer Shane. "A lot of the song titles are mean things [Shane] says that I laugh my ass off at and then wind up writing down."
Aside from this shift in tone, KEN Mode also changed several things about how they went about writing and recording the record. With the addition of permanent bassist Andrew Lacour (the first bassist to both record an album with the band and subsequently tour for that album since founding member Darryl Laxdal), KEN Mode are a writing three-piece. Lacour explains that this was the first time that he wrote a record that he felt was "a true group collaboration," with each member contributing equally.
He adds, "I feel like I've only ever written records myself, and to come into that with two other primary songwriters is pretty intense, but we did an incredible job with it."
Finally, rather than repeat the successful recording experience that they had with Kurt Ballou (Converge) at GodCity studios for Venerable, they chose to work with Matt Bayles (Minus the Bear, Isis, Botch). Instead of the eight days in-studio that they had for their previous record, they spend three full weeks recording and an additional week mixing. The process was labour-intensive; Jesse states that "Matt was constantly telling us about all the shit that he could do to make it easier, but didn't want to do it."
Shane adds that the process was worthwhile: "It shows in the final product, easily."
Entrench is out now on Season of Mist. As previously reported, KEN Mode are currently out on a lengthy North American tour, with the band hitting Canada later this month and throughout April. Check out the full list of dates here.
Also, read Exclaim!'s newly published KEN Mode cover story here.