17. KEN Mode, Loved (Season of Mist)
I like a lot of gloomy, transgressive art: to me the best movies, visual art, and literature has to take that kind of risk, to challenge senses and mores. However, when it comes to encountering new music in my late 40s I have increasingly little patience with the angry, caustic side of aggressive music. As a result I’ve all but abandoned most black metal that isn’t related to Enslaved or Emperor, and don’t have time for grindcore (though I will readily admit that Wake and Pig Destroyer put out very strong records in 2018). Still, I do need the odd record that makes me want to (metaphorically) run through a brick wall, and I always, always have room in my music library for the great KEN Mode. I’ve been following the band since the mid-2000s and it’s been so exciting see them evolve into the three-headed noise beast that they are now. Taking on Skot Hamilton as bassist was a brilliant move by Jesse and Shane Matthewson, and on the least two albums you could hear how well the three coalesce. There’s so much chemistry now. Interestingly, seventh album Loved is a marked departure from 2015’s Success in that there’s a lot more emphasis on the dissonant side of their music. Success had a lot of hooks, a lot of wry humour underneath all the early-‘90s noise rock homages, but Loved, on the other hand, is all about hostility, about channelling that aggression into musical form. Produced by noise veteran Andrew Schneider, this is the closest KEN Mode have ever gotten to accurately capturing their ferocious live sound on record. It’s the perfect bad-mood album, some healthy catharsis after dealing with whiny man-babies all day. In other words, your perfect 38 Minutes Hate.