Kill Everyone Now mode. KEN mode: an ethos legendary Black Flag frontman Henry Rollins would use to describe the band’s state of mind while taking the stage for the endless touring cycle of their genre defying classic album ‘My War’. This proved to be the psychological foundation and attitude for the project Royal Conservatory of Music trained brothers Jesse Matthewson, B.Comm (Hons) and Shane Matthewson CA/CPA, B. Comm (Hons), would dedicate their entire adult lives to, seeing them spread a manic form of metal and hardcore infused noise rock across the globe.
Cutting their teeth in the early aughts, when chaotic hardcore was at its peak, KEN mode would find breakout underground notoriety with a quintet of critically acclaimed records in the 2010’s, working with a who’s who of metal and hardcore producers in Kurt Ballou (Converge) for their Venerable LP (2011), Matt Bayles (Botch, Isis) for Entrench (2013), Steve Albini (Nirvana, The Jesus Lizard) for Success (2015), and Andrew Schneider (Unsane, Cave In) for Loved (2018), all while maintaining an unrelenting tour schedule with such acts as Russian Circles, Torche, Deafheaven, Norma Jean, Kylesa, Pelican, Daughters, Revocation, Full of Hell, Inter Arma, Today is the Day, Birds In Row, and more; along with seeing them hit a multitude of major festivals like SXSW, Hellfest Open Air, CMJ Festival, Pitchfork Festival Chicago, Hopscotch Festival, and Roadburn Festival; and doing live sessions for renowned institutions such as BBC Radio 1 and Daytrotter.
NULL, the band’s brand-new aural abrasion, may be the group’s quintessential statement of mental collapse and despair made sonic, a direct psychological reaction to the collective experience of the last two and a half years. Drawing from not only the desperate noise and industrial sonics of the 80’s and 90’s ala Swans, Einsturzende Neubauten, or even a Nine Inch Nails, the band has mixed in a decidedly more desperate tone to their already pointed metallic hardcore influenced “extreme noise rock” (see Melvins, Today Is The Day meets Converge and Botch), that has become their signature.
Seeing this vision through would require the long-time three-piece, composed of Matthewson x 2 and bassist Skot Hamilton, to become a four-piece – welcoming multi-instrumentalist Kathryn Kerr into the fold on saxophone, synth, piano, and backing vocals. Kathryn provided saxophone duties on the band’s last juggernaut, the Loved album, and works with the brothers as a consultant bookkeeper for their day jobs managing the financial side for a who’s who of Canadian metal, punk, and hardcore bands in MKM Management Services – so it just seemed a natural extension to utilize her skills on significantly more instruments and take her on as a full-time member.
But NULL is so much more than a mere expansion of instrumentation. This is the first part in a two-album arc to be released by new label home, Artoffact Records, that was recorded and produced throughout the fall and winter of 2021 by Andrew Schneider. The works expose the emotional core of combating mental illness when one’s fine-tuned coping and management mechanisms have been involuntarily stripped away, and you’re forced to navigate this intensely divided and miserable political climate through a global pandemic. The fury, fear, and confusion, followed by a profound sadness and mourning, drags you down while it cuts and pummels, like you’re experiencing every one of your lowest moments over and over again.
Armed with these new works in this new decade, the band is prepared to take their seat as one of the kings of metal and hardcore’s noisiest sub-sets.