In 2012, Winnipeg metallic hardcore/noise rock force KEN mode made history. It won the inaugural Juno award for Metal/Hard Album of the Year for its masterful 2011 album Venerable, edging out the likes of heavyweights like Devin Townsend and Anvil.
It was a validating moment for founding brothers Jesse and Shane Matthewson who, for the better part of a decade, had put literal blood, sweat and tears -- not to mention money and sacrifice -- into a project they believed in.
After the Juno win -- and the bolstered profile that came along with it -- the pressure was on when it came to the recording follow-up, Entrench. KEN mode was at a pivotal moment in its career, a point that was not lost on its members.
KEN mode is on the road with Today is the Day. (Scott Kinkade)
"When we stated writing the music, we knew we wanted to put out the best album we could," Jesse Matthewson says, on the line en route to a gig in Boston. The band is currently in the midst of a 42-date North American tour with Today is the Day.
"Go big or go home -- that was our M.O."
Jesse, Shane and bassist Andrew LaCour know the power of a great team; Venerable
was helmed by Converge's Kurt Ballou.
, the band teamed up with another of aggressive music's heavyweights, revered metal producer/former Minus The Bear keyboardist Matt Bayles, who's worked with everyone from Mastodon to Pearl Jam.
"We knew he'd get it -- and boy, did he ever get it," Jesse says. "I lot of people are saying it's more polished but I disagree. You can just hear everything perfectly."
While KEN mode was certainly positioned to make a career-high album, it was also at the top of its game. Entrench
is a bold-strokes album that punches with the same fists of fury as its predecessors, but is a markedly more considered, sophisticated effort.
The sheer craftsmanship is awe-inspiring. "We wanted to explore a more dynamic range," Jesse says, pointing to the use of keys, piano and even strings to an already layered soundscape.
Go big is right.
"I had no idea how (the album) would turn out, to be honest," Jesse says. "But I'm thrilled with how it turned out. I think it's our best album to date."KEN mode's Entrench is out March 19. The band returns to Winnipeg for a hometown CD release show on April 4 at The Pyramid.
Related:KEN Mode picks tunes to celebrate successful border crossings.