KEN mode’s blunt destruction takes on harsh twists, warped sounds on psyche-killed ‘Loved’

Photo by Brenna Faris

One of the worst feelings in the world is being strung along without someone just dealing with you honestly and, no matter how it may hurt, laying the truth on the line. Just tear off the bandage, no matter how much is stings, because knowing what’s genuine and what’s not provides you with real freedom and the chance to move on.

Canadian destroyers KEN mode never ever have been known for holding back their true feelings. Over the course of six records, these guys have bludgeoned audiences with their hybrid of hardcore, noise, and post-rock that are woven into songs that grab you by the throat and deliver truth. None of that changes on their molten seventh record “Loved,” one of the best of their career, and one that finds them taking even more chances. At this point, these guys could show up, whip out nine songs, and be done with it, and it would probably be pretty great. They don’t operate that way. Instead, we get panicked sax, different vocals approaches, and raw atmosphere that makes for a gripping, thunderous display. The band—the Matthewson brothers Jesse (vocals, guitars) and Shane (drums), along with bassist Skot Hamilton—just beats the shit out of you over and over, leaving raw nerves and hurt.

“Doesn’t Feel Pain Like He Should” opens the record with noise blurring before the hammer drops, and we are properly under way. Riffs race and spiral, like a plane engine out of control, while the burly, crushing assault does its damage. “The Illusion of Dignity” has guitars jarring and madness spreading, with Jesse wailing, “I don’t want to feel safe, I’ll never learn that way!” Things gets sludgy and pummeling, as the growls corrode, sax blurts in, and the ending sizzles in sound. “Feathers & Lips” is doomy and destructive, with muddy punching and shouts that poke and prod. Things remain utterly savage before the song ends bluntly. “Learning to Be Too Cold” is chunky and acidic, as the pace lays into you and leaves ample welts. “Life as a sick romance, lust has no mercy!” Jesse cries, as riffs tangle and then hit a downward spiral, leaving you in a dizzying hellscape.

“Not Soulmates” has a thrashy start, and then things get trickier, as Jesse warns himself, “This is not a good place, I need to escape.” Hardcore-style defiance bubbles to the surface, with the back end trying to take off your head at the neck. “Very Small Men” is really speedy but also has hints of playfulness. The shouts blurt poison, while the band heads into a punishing breakdown that should scramble your brains. “This Is a Love Test” has a thick bassline slithering, while the sax strikes again, rocking you awake. Jesse’s vocals are more spoken for the most part, as damaging shouts later make their way into the mix, and the tempo knifes through your chest and into your heart. “Fractures in Adults” has guitars and bass clashing at the gates, while Jesse howls, “How many times must I fade away?” The song it utterly aggressive and pissed off, as painful shouts and bloodshed playing bring the track to an end. Closer “No Gentle Art” is the big eye-opener of the record, as noise pummels, the guitars harshly carve a path with a rusty knife, and Jesse deliver this diatribe in speak-singing, repeatedly insisting, “Stop giving me hope!” like a stalking lover looking for any glimmer of light. The track gets more unhinged as it goes on, as the vocals get scarier, sax swirls into the mix, and psychotic detachment grows thicker. The end bathes in noise, coming off the hinges, smearing rust, and Jesse, one more time pleading, “Stop giving me hope,” as things dissolve in tears and blood.

“Loved” is a manic, brutal assault by KEN mode, and it feels like the band is revitalized with their new creations and increasing palette of sounds. This band always has been one on which you could rely sonically and from their lyrical approach, and they’ve never pulled a punch in their lives. This is a fire-breather for the end of summer, a record that can stick with you long into nature’s imminent decay.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.ken-mode.com/

To buy the album (North America), go here: https://shopusa.season-of-mist.com/

Or here (International): https://shop.season-of-mist.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.season-of-mist.com/

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PICK OF THE WEEK: Swedish killers Crawl mix death metal, crust on damaging debut record ‘Rituals’

It’s been a long week, a miserable month, and every single day the news gets even shittier and more impossible to comprehend what’s wrong with some people. The cycle never seems to end, so when things are at their most ridiculous, a huge slab of filthy death metal always does the trick.

Swedish beasts Crawl answer the bell with their killer debut record “Rituals,” a nine-track, 25-minute mauler that burns the wick on both ends, violently so, as they rip out sooty, grimy death metal packed with noise and some hardcore and crusty meanness. If you’re new to the band but have records from Entombed, Dismember, Converge, Trap Them, and Gatecreeper taking up room on your shelf, chances are Crawl’s first foray into the world surely can find some space. The band wastes no time getting things going and boiling heavily, and as that short run time indicates, they deliver just the right amount of nourishment before they get out, leaving you bruised and bloodied. The band— vocalist Joachim Lyngfelt (Dråp, ex-Decomposed), guitarist/bassist Martin Sjögren (ex-Discarnate), and drummer Amir Batar (ex-Demonical, ex-Tormention)—only has been together about four years, but they already have this impressive record on their resume, which should be the start of something bloody.

“Reject the Cross” rips the record right open with chunky death metal and gruff growls from Lyngfelt. The hardcore fumes pour out of this thing, with the track getting gritty and furious, and the title wailed over and over. “Breathing Violence” has a hammering pace, as the band mashes bones, the growls punish, and the assault is super chugging before giving way. “The Stench” has guitars welling up and flooding, before the track hits the brakes and delivers a slower paced, but ultra-heavy beating. Feedback scorches, while the song powers into the mud, and a beastly assault hammers home the exclamation point. “Black Ritual” unloads flattening riffs and harsh growls, while the pace spits nails. A thick bassline emerges, as Lyngfelt howls the song’s title amid a thick cloud of smoke.

“Trail of Traitors” simmers in a pit of mud, as bludgeoning thrashing tears through the seams, and harsh cries blast panic before the song’s abrupt end. “Sentenced to Rot” gets powered up right away, as the pace stomps hard, and the playing is fast and ferocious. That killer assault strangles you and robs you of your air, paving the way toward “Cowards,” which is utterly decimating. The guitars smother, with ferocious cries dealing heavy blows, the guitars twisting muscle and flesh, and the lightning-fast tempo making short work of this killer. “Suffer” stampedes toward the gates, with the guitars giving off a Slayer vibe, and the violence being served up generously. Growls continue to pelt, as some nasty riffs bring this thing to an end. Closer “Coven of Servants” is the longest track at 4:41, and riffs spiral and flatten everything in front of it. A mix of yells and shrieks is splattered together, while the band puts the finishing touched on the song by employing meaty riffs  and noise ringing out, almost like a flatline.

Despite their name, Crawl hardly are on their hands and knees sneaking up on anyone, as their thunderous debut “Rituals” is far too destructive and noisy. This is a really promising first step for this Swedish band, and if this is just the start, who knows where these guys go from here? This is crusty, creeping, sooty death, and it’s the ideal antidote for lashing back at an unfair world.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/CRAWLSWE/

To buy the album, go here: https://tometal.com/store/

For more on the label, go here: https://tometal.com/

The Secret bring violent end to their silence with black noise, volcanic ash on EP ‘Lux Tenebris’

Photo by David Robinson

I need to get the hell out of where I am right now. Mentally and physically. There are people with far greater problems, but the past month has been an emotional toll, and the only thing that’s going to give any relief is to get away from all of this, go somewhere else, and forget about everything else for an extended period of time. Make no mistake: There is great benefit to just getting the fuck out.

Not sure if that was the same train of thought barreling through the heads of Italian metallic beast The Secret, but following actions that proceeded their 2012 album “Agnus Dei,” the members of the band didn’t even speak to each other for three years. That’s a pretty extreme step for cleaning the palette and getting life, and in their case, their art, refocused. They’ve returned with a stunning, damaging new EP “Lux Tenebris” that keeps intact their blackened hardcore sound and injects it with more atmosphere, texture, and outright violence. This is a scarier, stormier situation now, and the band—Marco Cosmovich, guitarist/synth player Michael Bertoldini, bassist Lorenzo Gulminelli, and drummer Tommaso Corte—spend just 20 minutes exposing their new nightmarish vision that breathes new life into the Secret.

“Vertigo” starts the record with swirling noises and the guitars cutting into the belly of the song. The bulk of this thing is smothered with noise and interference, as the riffs swirls, and black chaos roils underneath the belly of the monster. The growls are buried in the muck, as darkness continues to envelop, the song buckles, and everything bleeds into “The Sorrowful Void,” where the storm wells up dangerously. The track then rips apart, thundering and coming for blood, as the growls are more pronounced and terrifying, and the fires keep raging harder. Filthy riffs smear soot, while the growls chew into bone, and black metal-style melodies cascade. “Cuppio Dissolvi” is your 7:12-long closer that begins viciously and brings with it a hellish assault. The pace is jackhammering, while sinister guitar work bleeds all over, and disorienting playing unleashes tricks that fry your mind. The band continues to deliver mesmerizing violence, with the music stinging the flesh before mercifully fading away.

Stepping away from something isn’t always easy, but the Secret found that detachment is the best way to continue their volcanic campaign, which increases with intensity on “Lux Tenebris.” The band remains as punishing and uncompromising as ever, but with an apocalyptic shadow that promises destruction is behind it. These three songs provide just a glimpse into the Secret’s redesigned blackness, making the future seem awfully foreboding.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/the.secret.lux.tenebris/

To buy the album, go here: https://southernlord.com/store/

For more on the label, go here: https://southernlord.com/

Long-tenured tech-death band Sulaco put end to seven years of silence with wiry ‘The Prize’

A lot has changed in metal the past half-decade or so. There are bands that have come up with the idea of changing and morphing what we knew about heavy sounds and putting them back together in unconventional ways. Hell, the past couple years have been rich breeding grounds for these ideas, which has made metal even more exciting.

We haven’t heard from New York tech death legends Sulaco for the past seven years, and in that time, so much has changed. Luckily for Sulaco, they’re pretty adept at doing things their own way, as they have for the past 15 years or so. Sure, the “tech death” label has come to mean something different from how it was applied to this band. So much tech death is centered on musical nerdism and noodling out the asshole in a way that takes the emotion from the music and makes it something of an antiseptic science exhibit. Sulaco never have done that, as their music has been filled with power and emotion, and their thunderous third record “The Prize” proves that over and over. Their first effort since 2011’s “Build and Burn” is a six-track beast that is their first for Translation Loss and is another indecipherable, impossible to classify collection of crushers for which this band—vocalist/guitarist Erik Burke, guitarist Brian Mason, bassist Lon Hackett, and drummer Chris Golding—is known.

“Disguise” gets us started with heavy crunching, grimy basslines, and furious cries from Burke that, for some weird reason reminds me of Mike Patton when he’s shredding his throat. The track gets muddy and aggressive, as things get crazed and wiry, and things end in a daze. “The Bridge” is speedy as hell, as the drums destroy, and Burke’s vocals are totally unhinged. Meaty thrashing emerges and powders bones, with the tempo chugging and driving, and the track coming to a fiery end. “The Road” has jerking riffs as it sprawls open and dizzies your mind. Filth cakes as tricky playing explodes, with gushing howls from Burke and a clobbering, bloodying pace.

“Chosen” emerges with chunky riffs, drums splattering, and a super thrashy explosion that sends shrapnel flying. The track is just heavy as fuck, with the growls bruising, and a destructive pace leaving nothing but chaos behind it. “Rivers and Heart” has thickened growls that push into a cooler pace that makes you think serenity is near. It’s not. Burke wails the title repeatedly, while the band lays waste, giving off a 1990s vibe, an era that predates the band. The song then goes into atmospheric realms before the song bursts, the drums destroy, and the end is abrasive. “So Be It” finishes the record with tricky riffs and a pace that trudges hard, getting dirt stuck in your lungs. Maniacal cries scrape the flesh, while slurry riffs confuse, and if you feel disoriented, you’re not alone. Strangeness then sweeps into the room, twisting and breaking bones before finally giving mercy.

Surely it takes a lot to create the fury Sulaco delivers, which explains why a seven-year absence was necessary for the world to get “The Prize.” These guys have been forming metal in their own vision for a long time now, and there is no way they’ll ever settle for conventional means. This is a massive, punishing band that twists their gears whoever they see fit and don’t answer to anyone but themselves.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/sulacoband/

To buy the album, go here: https://translationlossrecords.bigcartel.com/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.translationloss.com/

Primitive Man, Unearthly Trance form doom, destruction dream team on noise-splattered split

According to a super-fast, not terribly scientific Google search of the heaviest object on earth, the answer comes in at the revolving service structure of the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center. Who am I to argue with such instantaneous information? Its 4.86 million pounds is pretty damn beefy, no doubt, as that would really hurt if it fell on your foot.

I’m not going to try to convince you the new split effort teaming up Colorado-based sludge crushers Primitive Man and NYC-based killing machine Unearthly Trance is heavier poundage-wise, but it sure seems like it would squish your innards if it fell on your abdomen. Even before locking horns on this seven-track beast, these two bands already were known as two of the most fearsome and formidable. Primitive Man last waylaid us in 2017 with their second full-length “Caustic,” and they’ve been goddamn road warriors supporting that slab. Unearthly Trance also gave us new music last year with “Stalking the Ghost,” their first since taking a three-year hiatus from 2012-2015. If you’re a fan of these bands, or you only really know one or the other, it’s a tremendous release that packs earth-shifting pounding and metallic chaos, and maybe it’ll get you more into one or both of these units.

Primitive Man (photo by Alvino Salcedo)

“Merging” gets us started, a sort of amalgamation of noise ideas and static, making the ideal hellish storm before eating into Primitive Man’s portion of the record with 10:37 “Naked.” The band takes some chances with these songs, delving far more into horrific ambiance and noise pools, but this track is the most familiar of their two cuts. It takes some for them to set the stage as they purposely drag you through ash and fire, as slow mauling and crazed growls from guitarist/vocalist Ethan Lee McCarthy start to do damage. The track later is coated in abrasive sounds and panic, as smothering pain and bludgeoning power unite and deliver a crushing finish. “Love Under Will”  is corrosive, packed with violent echoes and stunning feedback. Screeches push in and add menace, while the track boils and gives off steam, with weird voices encircling you, eating into your psyche. The noise keeps building and adding pressure, as the final minutes are damaged and deranged, leaving you to question your own fragile and splintering psyche.

Unearthly Trance (photo by Jimmy Hubbard)

Unearthly Trance pulls in and unloads “Mechanism Error,” a song that proves their comeback last year is still bloody and healthy, even if that record kind of slipped under the radar. Riffs drive, as Ryan Lipynsky’s vocals tear a hole in your chest and attempt to pull out what’s inside. The pace they achieve just levels your shaky foundations, as the song corrodes into acid, and the final moments burn away and right into the path of “Triumph.” The band gets fast and fiery, with the vocals sending shockwaves, and everything beneath it seemingly is turned into lava. The track trudges into a sonic noise halo, with thick basslines creeping out of that, and the track dissipating into the clouds. “Reverse the Day” has burly, demonic riffs, and alien effect make the vocals seem that much more unsettling. “Release the demons!” Lipynsky cries, as the mud begins to cake, soloing heats up, and ferocious growls wrap around the madness. Things head toward the mouth of destruction and into closer “418,” and its inferno of guitar work. Sounds swim and build amid the chaos, and a strange, formless spurt of playing feels overwhelming and unbeatable. Wild screams and manic playing give the song an out-of-body-experience feel, while the track ends in eerie cold and with guitars that slice and dice.

Primitive Man and Unearthly Trance is sort of a fantasy booking kind of dream for doom fans, and to have them mashing your senses on the same split should leave people’s hearing a little more compromised. It’s also a strong appetizer serving before whatever these two bands have coming up next, which knowing each, likely will be terrifying as hell. We can’t wait.

For more on Primitive Man, go here: https://www.facebook.com/primitivemandoom/

For more on Unearthly Trance, go here: https://www.facebook.com/UnearthlyTrance/

To buy the album, go here: https://store.relapse.com/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.facebook.com/RelapseRecords

PICK OF THE WEEK: Death, doom unload into Innumerable Forms’ hammering ‘Punishment in Flesh’

One of the best parts of the summer is the immersive, dark, foreboding thunderstorms, where the clouds thicken like a metallic dome, rain saturates the ground, and it feels like death is imminent. There’s something about being at nature’s mercy, and despite being pretty sure you’ll survive, you’re just not quite sure.

That rumbling horror is something that also can be felt in “Punishment in Flesh,” the debut record from death/doom maulers Innumerable Forms. Their amalgamation of early death metal and doom metal, two forms that were morphing alongside each other a little more than two decades ago, is thick and rich, feeling like that heavy summer storm that’s about to open its mouth and deliver destruction. The band initially was helmed entirely by Justin DeTore, known for his work in Sumerlands, Magic Circle, and Mind Eraser, as well as the hardcore and powerviolence scenes, as he handled everything for the band’s early recordings. Now, DeTore has a powerhouse of a band alongside him including guitarists Chris Ulsh (Mammoth Grinder, Power Trip) and Jensen Ward (Iron Lung), bassist Doug Cho (The Rival Mob), and drummer Connor Donnegan (Genocide Pact) to fully realize this vision and bring to it and even deadlier, bloodier stranglehold.

“Intruders” opens the record in weird mechanical whirring and overall strangeness before cutting into “Punishment in Flesh” and its lurching doom. DeTore’s growls crawl painfully through the muck while the band hits a fury, delivering ripping solos amid all the tar that’s building up beneath them. “Petrified” is faster and just as ugly, as it punches holes in the walls and fills them with meaty muscle. The growls scrape, while the music wrenches, and slurry soloing rushes to the track’s charred end. “Purity’s Demand” stampedes, as anguish is poured by the buckets, the track enters into cavernous hell that chills, and soloing lights up the place and threatens to burn it down. Noise then rushes to the surface to quake the ground and set the stage for “Reality,” which drops the doom hammer right away. The first part is steeped in Sabbath worship, but then the tempo jams the gas pedal, jerking your neck in the process. We settle back to slow and sweltering again later, as DeTore’s growls gurgle out.

“Re-Contaminated” has noise stinging ears, while DeTore’s growls rumble, and the pace of the song starts clubbing you hard. The riffs are thick and penetrating, and later DeTore’s approach bludgeons you amid slurry guitar work designed to disorient. The punishment continues in full until it finally fades into the background. “Stress Starvation” has gnarly riffs, as it rips open and unleashes its violence. The track is nasty and fiery, coming to a furious end that will hammer your body. “Joyless” is mauling and pretty indicative of its title, with doomy formations settling overhead and threatening devastation. The growls grind in the dirt, while noise rings out, the guitars charge, and a scorching menace of a final burst turns out the lights. “Firmament” is an instrumental cut built with calculating riffs, trudging madness, and melodies slowly dissolving into time, leading to finale “Meaning” that revels in classic doom waters. DeTore’s forceful “oof!” pushes open the gates, and the band follows with an assault that swims back and forth from aggressive to humid, with the riffs getting sickening, chaos building, and a giant cloud of ash threatening suffocation.

Innumerable Form’s debut offering “Punishment in Flesh” lives up to its name, as it’s a mix of classic death metal and doom that lets loose its fair share of unforgiving destruction. It’s a record that should please all of those whose hair is now graying a bit (or a lot) about the days when the roots were sown, but it won’t abandon anyone who has come into these filthy sections lately. This is a pummeling record, one that’ll ensure you end the summer with heavy blackened eyes.

For more on the band, go here: https://innumerableforms.bandcamp.com/

To buy the album, go here: https://profoundlorerecords.merchtable.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.profoundlorerecords.com/

Belgian death horde Carnation unleash old-school blood and guts on ‘Chapel of Abhorrence’

Photo by Sarina Mannaert

The branching out of metal’s sub-genres has been a very healthy thing for this style of music. People have taken traditional sounds and stretched them as far as they can go, yet when it seems the barriers could burst, they find another way around it. That has made for some fascinating music, and it’s made what could have been a stale scene remain vibrant.

That’s also helped bands that want to keep it simple and traditional. There’s still great merit in playing things that way they’ve always been done, as it keeps that path to the roots alive and well. That leads us to Antwerp-based death unit Carnation who are beating the shit out of us on their debut full-length “Chapel of Abhorrence.” If you insist on dining at the table of death metal’s masters, the ones who forged the path for this style of music, you’ll be right at home with this 11-track,  47-minute record that doesn’t feel nearly that long. The band—vocalist Simon Duson, guitarists Bert Vervoort and Jonathan Verstrepen, bassist Yarne Heylen, and drummer Vincent Verstrepen—digs into chaos, destruction, and all the shit we’ve come to expect from death’s ever-flowing stream of infestation, and they do it well.

The record kicks off with “The Whisperer” as feedback and, of course, whispers unwind, and the song begins to unfurl. Gurgly growls and speedy playing make up the bulk of this, while eerie organs spill in later, as Duson howls, “I am the whisperer of doom!” as things come to a bludgeoning end. “Hellfire” has a vicious start, as death drills into your chest, with Duson screaming, “Your soul is broken!” Scorching soloing then goes off, jamming a blunt edge into your chest. The title track has gnarly riffs and penetrating, aggressive playing, while gruff growls and burnt guitars bring the song to a volatile end. “The Unconquerable Sun” builds up and bursts into a cloud of shreds and mind-bending playing. The tempo stomps and crunches, as the growls envelop your senses, and fiery riffs stomp you out. “Disciples of Bloodlust” is thrashing and mean, with violent intent woven into the song, and visions of bodily contortion making bones ache. The song gets into high-power gear from there, while Duson’s words sound like he’s choking on blood.

“Hatred Unleashed” is punchy and harsh, as Duson declares, “I curse you all with endless torment!” Revenge is in the air, as the track ups the ante on torn muscles and violence. “Plaguebreeder” has drums blistering your flesh, as the band chugs, and the song gets heavy as hell. There’s even a bit of a hardcore taste to what’s going on here, making it even more ferocious. “Magnum Chaos” has riffs twisting and growls pummeling, with the band applying ample pressure as the room begins to spin. The guitar work swelters later, with alien-like vocals spilling into the atmosphere before things come to a torching finish. “Sermon of the Dead” is hypnotic and wiry, with the speed picking up quickly and a pulverizing assault delivering the ritualistic hell. “Fathomless Depths” swims in death-doom swampiness, as Duson’s growls are belched out, and the terror bubbles to the surface. “It’s time to say your prayers,” Duson screams, as the song goes out on a funereal note. “Power Trip” brings the record to its end, as it stampedes ahead, the adrenaline surges, and violent transmissions deliver the final blows. The band keeps adding to the torment before things come to a sudden end.

Carnation’s path toward death is legit and ugly, and if you’re in worship to the masters, then you’ll like the shit out of  “Chapel to Abhorrence.” It’s great that death has morphed beyond it’s original form, and we support the hell out of that. But bands that keep the original spirit alive matter, and Carnation are one of the ones that makes this vile nature feel real again.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/CarnationBE/

To buy the album (North America), go here: https://shopusa.season-of-mist.com/

Or here (International): https://shop.season-of-mist.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.season-of-mist.com/