Right from its feedback-infected bitter eruption, Ken Mode’s seventh full-length, Loved, signals itself as one of the year’s most uncompromising listens, a full-scale assault on the ears that drags both band and listener flailing back into the dark recesses of their own bilious history. Blending Dillinger and Converge-style hardcore with occasional Gojira-shaped lumps of metal, the band are on pugnacious form, wrestling music from the sound of steel girders being used as chopsticks, and refusing to reel it in for anyone. Less bound by the tropes of hardcore than JUNO-winning breakthrough Venerable, and more blackened than 2013’s Entrench, the album scythes its own torrid path through the psyche, abandoning the art-punk stylings of predecessor Success for a more nightmarish sonic violence. While The Illusion of Dignity and Not Soulmates grind relentlessly like belt-sanders to the face, the former hammering the indignity home with repetitive percussive thumps like wet punches to the chest, the more accessible Feathers and Lips and Very Small Men throw some Cumshots-style Nordic punk into the mix, leaving No Gentle Art to close the album with eight minutes of menacing torment that come across like Mr Blonde circling a bloodied Disney character somewhere beneath a deserted funhouse. Elsewhere, Blackjazz saxophone flourishes crop up in unexpected places in an effort to disorientate and push the listener to the edge, while frontman Jesse Matthewson’s tortured screams give every second an extra sense of desolate derangement. If Mathewson is to be believed, the band “entered writing for this album with one goal in mind – to please the smile”, a reference to the deeply unsettling album art. If that was truly the case, then well played Mr Matthewson, because both smile and album are terrifying, entrancing, enticing and brilliant.
Loved is out 31 August on Season Of Mist