The Kontinuum… continues! Not to be confused with the tech death band Continuum reviewed here by Dr. A.N. Grier earlier in the week, Kontinuum are an Icelandic band that plays a multifarious blend of dreamwave and post-rock/metal with some inviting and interesting gothic undertones. 2012’s Earth Blood Magic, Kontinuum‘s first full-length, carried with it the well constructed inspiration of hardened bands like Shining (Swedish), Celtic Frost, Candlemass and Agalloch along with the alternative undercurrent of Interpol, Editors and Tool, making it not only an eclectic listen, but also an exciting introduction to the capabilities of a fledgling band. Now Kontinuum follow through with their sophomore release and as if to prove they’re more than just a one-trick-pony, this time they introduce a less-than-subtle worship of fellow countrymen Sólstafir, along with the likes of Aoria, Cult of Luna and even a little Watain. I’ve been waiting for this, so let’s see how it holds up.
On first play through, it’s quickly confirmed that Kontinuum‘s working with a different set of influences this time around. Gone are the sultry feminine wiles of Earth Blood Magic‘s “Red” along with the occasional blackened snarls of “Steinrunninn Skogur.” Birgir Thorgeirsson instead opts for a more magickal or shamanic approach similar to that of goth rocker Carl McCoy (Fields of the Nephilim and Nefilim) and the bariton of post-punk revivalist Tom Smith (Editors).
Opener “Breathe” is a piece that hovers somewhere between the sultry gothic melodies of The Beauty of Gemina, the atmospheric melencholia of Aoria and the post-rock ebb and flow of Cult of Luna. The track delivers the kind of epic, progressive, black doominess one expects from Kontinuum, but takes time to sink in and commit to memory. This continues on through “Í Huldusal,” “Hlidargötu Heimsveldi,” “Kyrr” and “Undir Punnu Skinni,” thereby causing the front-end of the album to feel weaker than the back-end initially. Advancing through each expression, highlights moments of Breaking Benjamin style cold familiarity, Sólstafir isolation but the lack of meaty, muscular soloing prevents the tracks from committing to memory; relying instead on subtle melodies that grow and build layer upon layer like those of Agalloch‘s early years.
“Lone” signals the big divide on Kyrr. Taking around two minutes to grow beyond a mere noise-like interlude, it becomes one of the most tragic pieces of sound I’ve heard in some time, on a par with some of Katatonia‘s best material. The songs that follow, “In Shallow Seas” and “Red Stream,” are harder than their peers. “In Shallow Seas” has a gothic doom feel one expects from Fields of the Nephilim with some unexpected Queens of the Stone Age hallucinogenic bite just for good measure, while “Red Stream” hits you with a final fuzzed out, buzzy, angry riff that near mimics a didgeridoo. It’s weird, memorable and though I didn’t know it at first, it’s what I wanted from Kontinuum.
Touching on so many different streams of thought and influence can weigh down a release and make it a tough listen. Luckily, Kyrr has moments of enjoyment and accessibility that keep you returning to the album and expand your attention outwards. Like the smell of wet dog, this album permeates your mind, getting into your subconscious and before you know it you’re humming these weird little tunes. This is a great follow-up to Earth Blood Magic.