KEN mode Reach Their Apex on the Molten 'NULL'

BY Mark TremblayPublished Sep 21, 2022

KEN mode never lets up and never stops innovating with their sound. Even after creating music for more than 20 years, the Winnipeg four-piece's sound is still as urgent and fresh as when they started. Their latest offering, NULL, further pushes their music to places beyond their previous peaks; the band's abrasive, instinctual songwriting has reached its apex.

With a further emphasis being placed on atmosphere and musical bluntness, Null is a hellish soundscape that refines KEN mode's approach to heavy music. KEN mode's music is about catharsis and intensity at all costs — NULL ratchets up their already-molten intensity exponentially, folding new atmospheric elements into the fray. The confronting strings on songs like "A Love Letter" and "Unresponsive" are horror film-worthy, touching on the near-unbearable intensity of Colin Stetson's Hereditary score.

There are even moments like the sparse piano arrangements on "Lost Grip," immensely impacting the morose nature of Null. Where previous KEN mode records have relied predominantly on Jesse Mathewson's gargantuan riffs to achieve weight, the newly-detailed atmosphere on Null is responsible for some of the record's heaviest moments. Whether it's the cacophonous percussion on "Unresponsive" or the harsh noise of "The Tie," the heaviness surrounds the band's core instrumentation, with the riffs feeling more auxiliary in the grand scheme of the album. 

The guitar riffs still play an important part on the record, but they operate differently this time around — rather than drive the onslaught, they instead create a variety of necessary melodic moments that add new shades of feeling to the music. From the hook on "Throw Your Phone in the River" and "Not My Fault," it's surprising the way these riffs offer levity that takes the listener above the dread and heaviness that pervades the album. Perhaps the best example is in "Lost Grip," where the mid-song guitar solo operates as the singular melodic moment that ties the song together.

NULL might be remembered as the greatest album in KEN mode's already formidable discography, expressing the desperation and anxiety — bolstered by a newfound sense of dimension — that the band has always been so adept at translating. 

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