Kontinuum’s eclectic style threw me slightly off balance when the first track started up and truthfully my first thought was – is this an indie band, lost in a metal club improvising to not get the crap kicked out of them by a bunch of angry metal heads? Rest assured this is not the case, Earth Blood Magic is a crazy, kick-ass mix of what feels like a range of different influences that just somehow melts together as if by… dare I say it… magic? [NO! Steel Druhm, what have you wrought!? - AMG] Kontinuum hail from Iceland (and more specifically Reykjavik) and are born from the smoldering ashes of dark metal act Potentiam and punk, doom, experimental metal act Pornea. The commonalities across these bands other than their Icelandic ties and their members list is their tasty subject matter of sorrow, death, philosophy, decline of existence and anti-religion. These icy metallers site Sólstafir and Katatonia as their influences. While I agree with this, Kontinuum draw inspiration from a host of other bands, including the likes of Shining (Swedish of course), Celtic Frost, Candlemass, Agalloch, Interpol, Editors and Tool to name just a few. As far as expectations for this album go, I’ve noticed a recent shift in focus in the metal community with much interest focused on Icelandic bands, and this combined with a statement released by Birgir Thorgeirsson (founding member) along the lines of Kontinuum producing “honest music with less constraints and room for various genre influences” there are high expectations for Earth Blood Magic.
In terms of style Kontinuum have an atmospheric and experimental edge to their music, which comes across loud and clear on this album. Vocally, Thorgeirsson has the chops to attempt any number of vocal styles, and what surprised me is that he does this rather successfully too. From screams worthy of Niklas Kvarforth (Shining), Birgir shifts effortlessly into a cold and calculated tone that bears a remarkable similarity to Tom Gabriel Fischer (Celtic Frost), this is probably best demonstrated on the track “Steinrunninn Skógur”. The vocal gymnastics don’t stop there, and before you have time to wipe the dust from your eyes, you’re knee deep in the liquid goodness of “Moonshine” which sounds vocally as if either Tom Smith (Editors) or Paul Banks (Interpol) performed the track. Musically I found the album an easy listen, and while Earth Blood Magic’s not super technical in terms of guitar riffs, they’re melodic and have a comfortable familiarity about them, and in no time at all they’ve wormed their way into your brain. A couple of the tracks have a distinct Agalloch feel about them (check out “Endgame” at the 2:39 minute mark and or “City” at the 3:10 minute mark). “City” also bears a distinctly welcome Candlemass influence in terms of chugging thick guitar sounds and the overall feel of the track (3:34 go there, enough said).
Kontinuum have used various styles in forming this album, and while this works for the most part, where it falls short is in the switching between Icelandic and English vocals, this switching damages the flow of the album and leaves Earth Blood Magic feeling disjointed and I would have preferred either an Icelandic or an English album.
My favourite track on the album ended up being “Lightbearer” and despite its seemingly unassuming start, just a little before the 2 minute mark Birgir Thorgeirsson pulls what sounds like a pack of demons straight out of a Barker novel to join him on vocals. Nice! The mix and production is perfect for the record, never misbalanced or off kilter and the musicianship, with Thorgeirsson (vocals and guitar), Engilbert Hauksson (bass), Ingi Þór Pálsson (guitar), Kristján Heiðarsson (drums) and Thorlakur Thor Gudmundsson [Who does finger puppets off to the side - AMG] are a strong and experienced lineup. Where Kontinuum want to drift along on atmospheric waves they do this rather well, and likewise where they run full tilt at you like a “wall of noise” that works pretty damn well, too.
While I have a playlist full of Celtic Frost, Agalloch, Candlemass and dare I say it Interpol and the Editors too [Nay, you daren't! What will your Angry Metal Neighbors think!? - AMG], I’m definitely adding Kontinuum to my playlist. I can’t say these metallers have forged ahead through any particularly new or unchartered icy terrain with Earth Blood Magic, but that’s ok with me, the album’s occult, ambient, rocklike, melodic, “wall of noise” feel attracts me like the proverbial moth to a flame anyway! [Who the hell are the Editors?? - Steel Druhm]