It’s a dismal rainy evening in Toronto and I take refuge along with a slightly disgruntled Jesse Matthewson, who’s trying to relax before playing an early set at Sneaky Dee’s after apparently getting in a spot of trouble during soundcheck.
Jesse and his brother Shane have been gigging with their band Ken Mode (stylized as “KEN mode”) for almost 15 years, but the band has been featured steadily in rock press across North America since early 2012 when their album “Venerable” won the inaugural prize for Best Hard Rock/Metal at the Junos. It took a few people by surprise that the award would be taken by an obscure noise-rock band from Winnipeg, and as such they’ve certainly been put under the microscope by opportunist writers and metal fans that were offended by their perceived encroachment into some sort of unmarked territory.
It’s no surprise then that many eyes are focussed on their new release entitled “Entrench” (their fifth). The album maintains the noise-rock tone that seems to be regarded as their signature, but it’s drenched in the sound of early 2000’s metalcore which makes much of it come across as rather hooky at times.
Sitting shotgun in the band’s overstuffed touring van while trying to ignore pedestrians taking ridiculous chances crossing through rainy-night traffic, I actually manage to have a pretty sincere chat with Jesse about the new record, the actual results of winning an award, and what it’s like to be classified as being on “the hipster side”.
Recently I had a chance to sit down with vocalist Erik Danielsson of the popular and controversial Swedish black metal band Watain. The band is unique in the sense that despite the fact that they have maintained their extreme sound throughout their career, their appeal continues to widen.
The band has also expressed the idea that their music and outlandish live performances (which have often included severed animal heads -- yes, real ones) are a very specific form of artistic expression, occupying a space outside of a world that they view as a shallow place.
Their latest album "The Wild Hunt" is the band's most diverse album to date, and has received widespread acclaim from critics and fans alike. The inclusion of a moody gothic ballad on the record has been a point of discussion on the web and in many publications. That being said the album is no more melodic or accessible than their previous releases, so I thought it would be a good idea to speak to Danielsson about their strange cross-over success, and I delve deeper into the in-between place where the music and philosophy of Watain dwells.
The Norwegian group Shining (not to be confused with the Swedish band of the same name) began their life as an avant-garde jazz quartet. Over the course of four albums the band began to blend elements of prog-rock and heavy metal into their sound. This experimentation culminated in a collaborative headlining performance at the Molde International Jazz Festival with fellow countrymen Enslaved in 2008.
Two years later they released their signature album “Blackjazz” and performed live on Norwegian national television. On stage the band is a force of nature, effortlessly switching between pop hooks and metal riffs to acid-jazz freak-out jams. Their matching haircuts, custom black dress shirts, and ability to produce copious amounts of sweat evoke thoughts of bands like Refused.
At the centre of it all is frontman Jørgen Munkeby, who ferociously tackles vocals, guitar, and saxophone often within the same song. I had a chance to sit down with Munkeby before Shining’s first ever Toronto gig at the Wreckroom, so I could find out more about the band’s unique evolution, as well as their latest surprisingly accessible release “One One One”.
After three years, fans of the Ontario ska-punkers The Flatliners will have their patience rewarded when the band releases their new album entitled “A Dead Language” on September 17th. Expectations are high, as their previous release “Cavalcade” was a big hit amongst fans and critics alike.
I met up with the band following their short-but-sweet set at the Toronto edition of Riotfest to talk about the new record, their sound, and what it’s like playing the hometown gig after touring the world.