Canadian trio KEN mode (their name stands for "Kill Everyone Now mode," a quote from Henry Rollins' book, Get in the Van) blend a variety of musical elements on this, their sixth album. Jesse Matthewson’s vocals run the gamut from intense screaming to eerie whispering, and his guitar playing is similarly varied. At its best, the band creates intense, sludgy noise rock tempered with softer and sometimes more melodic sections, plus a touch of progressive influences that echo Mastodon's early works.
On “Obeying the Iron Will,” Matthewson plays lively licks that give way to heavier riffs, followed in turn by his bandmates' calmer drum and bass section. The group delves into more atmospheric metal on the instrumental “Flight of the Echo Hawk,” a track reminiscent of the work of KEN mode’s recent tourmates Pelican. At other times, when the band tries to take its noise-rock sound in a more progressive direction, the songs don’t work so well, like on “Never Was.” Matthewson’s whispered vocals over a quiet palm-muted guitar riff come across more forced and boring than dark. Meanwhile, the heavy chunks of the tracks sound unoriginal, and ultimately the eight-minute song feels about four minutes too long. Other songs suggest bad imitations of Converge. While Venerable does represent a more mature sound for KEN mode, it seems the band still hasn't quite mastered a solid mix between its harsher, noise-rock inclinations and its progressive aspirations. DAVID MCKENNA