So, it would appear nothing normal or run of the mill comes out of Iceland, at least musically. From groups such as Sigur Ros, Mum, Amiina, and the Sugarcubes (who, of course, introduced to us Bjork, another totally out-there performer), the music from that country has been pretty weird, but also very captivating.
As far as metal is concerned, we’ve had a fair share of bands come from that land, including Skalmold, Solstafir, and Beneath, though none have really become huge players in the metal world, at least as far as things are concerned here in America. But a relatively new band that hails from Reykjavik perhaps can elevate the land’s metal scene a little more with folks who aren’t totally tied with the deep underground, and their debut is landing in our hands by way of Candlelight’s Cult Series.
Kontinuum aren’t exactly tried-and-true metal, and a lot of times, their sound reaches into gothic rock and post-metal as much as anything. Yeah, they have their heavy, crushing moments on “Earth Blood Magic,” but they’re way more spaced out than what you get from most metal bands, and interspersed is riveting, colorful music that’s full of emotion and darkness. As far as this latest run of releases from the Cult Series, this album has the best chance at acceptance from listeners beyond metal’s gates, though the more adventurous, dream-embracing extreme music fan will find a lot to like as well, and when these guys turn on the power, they’re incredibly moving.
When they do go full metal, it’s more of the Viking-inspired style of black metal, which is understandable, but it isn’t expected or paint by numbers at all. It’s enthralling, and it reminds me a lot of old Enslaved. The band is comprised of guitarist/vocalist Birgir Thorgeirsson, guitarists Thorlakur Thor Gudmundsson and Ingi Þor Palsson, bassist Engilbert Hauksson, and drummer Kristjan B. Heiðarsson, and on their first record they already sound like a tight accomplished unit, which seems to bode well for their future. In fact, of all the bands in this version of the Cult Series, I’m most interested in this group’s future because I really am curious to hear what they sound like on their second record once they get more experience under their belts. Gloomy sky is the limit.
“Endgame” opens the record with a driving post-metal feel, a dramatic, gradually building instrumental statement, and what sounds like the untrustworthy, apocalyptic words of a preacher gone awry. That takes us into “Steinrunninn Skogur,” one of the songs that is sung in their native tongue, and it’s a spacious atmospheric slab of rock that’s pretty invigorating. There are cleaner vocals that are dark and brooding, and the song ends with spirited chants that sound like they were committed in the heart of the woods. “Moonshine” goes heavier into goth rock territory, seemingly indicating they are paying homage to The Cure, Depeche Mode, and Sisters of Mercy, but they turn up the aggression later in the song with shrieks and terror breaking out. “Stranger Air” brings things back down a bit with more of a rock-centered song that’s uptempo and melodic. Then things change.
“Lightbearer” is heavy, prog-fueled, and surging, with the most forceful vocals yet and a real sense of melodic aggression. This is where the band most sounds like Enslaved and some of the second wave of Nordic black metal bands, and it shows the sharp teeth they possess. “City” is in the same vein, with absolutely crushing drums and a continued reliance on heaviness, but they also let some air in the room and use more clean vocals. It’s a nice mix of the hard and soft. “Lys Milda Ljos” also slips back into traditional rock terrain, following what sounds like a long walk in the snow, and it’s a nice breather before leading into “Red,” one of the most impressive song on the album. A female vocalist handles the bulk of the song, rendering a rich, hearty performance, asking, “Can you fall in love with me before I die like you?” But as the song transforms, Thorgeirsson comes back in and joins her, and the two carry the tale to its conclusion. Closer “I Gljufradal” is practically a ballad, with piano acting as a lead in, the vocals remaining soft and tender, strings sweeping in to give it a baroque feel, and the track giving the record a breath-taking conclusion.
Weirdly, Kontinuum is the least cult of all of the releases in this series so far, but they’re perhaps the most promising. They blend in sounds from all different areas, so they’re not steadfastly metal, but their more extreme tendencies work wonderfully and have more color than most. I really like what Kontinuum did on their debut record, and I’m excited to hear what they dream up next.
For more on the band, go here: http://www.facebook.com/kontinuumice
To buy the album, go here: http://www.candlelightrecordsusa.com/store/
For more on the label, go here: http://www.candlelightrecordsusa.com/