Winnipeg's KEN Mode and Richmond's Inter Arma are responsible for two of the year's most electrifying and absorbing heavy records for very different reasons. The first word of KEN Mode's handle is an acronym borrowed from Henry Rollins, meaning "Kill Everyone Now." And indeed, their fortified mix of hardcore aggression, noise-rock relentlessness and death metal control takes no prisoners, skewering sociopolitical targets with a vengeful three-piece assault. This year's Entrench
follows 2011's Juno-winning Venerable
with increased muscularity and memorability; shout-along hooks burrow from beneath a battered shell of distorted bass and hangman guitar lines. Frontman Jesse Matthewson combines high-minded concerns with house-show immediacy, supplying not only the fight but also the philosophy behind it in songs that mete out complication and compulsion equally.
Inter Arma, meanwhile, functions as a sort of industrial-sized blender, constantly pushing unlikely ingredients together into strange and wonderful composites. Their second LP and debut for Relapse Records, Sky Burial, is not only one of this year's masterpieces but also a strong sign that modern metal is leaking into pop and rock audiences, and vice versa. Across its eight tracks, they traverse paths of wistful psychedelia and brutal black metal, body-quaking stoner stuff and filmic post-rock, ultimately arriving at a crossroads of pure musical experimentation and adventure.
Hog opens one of the year's best loud, local bills.