Kontinuum are the best band you’ve never heard of. True, there are a lot of bands you’ve never heard of, but Iceland’s Kontinuum — featuring members of the country’s first black metal act, Potentiam — are top of the unknown-band-top. Formed in 2010, the Reykjavík-based quintet set out to quickly solidify their disparate influences — from black metal to post-punk. Based on Iceland’s red-hot reputation for producing though-provoking, genre-defying bands, Candlelight Records quickly inked Kontinuum to a multi-album deal, issuing the Steinrunninn Skógur single in summer 2012. Kontinuum followed up with their debut album, Earth Blood Magic, a month later. Both single and album were awarded good reviews, with some offering compliments to Kontiuum for forging unique paths without losing sight of Iceland’s signature sound.
Kontinuum followed Earth Blood Magic with Kyrr in 2015. Reception to Kyrr almost non-existent (in the states), but Kontinuum’s sophomore effort proved the Icelanders were more than just a potluck metal/rock band with above average musicianship. In fact, Kyrr featured some of Kontinuum’s most awarding songs, starting with single “Í huldusal” and ending with the rest of the album. Seriously, few albums are all killer, but Kyrr was jam-packed with clever, dark, memorable metal/rock that forced intro and retrospection. On the surface, Kyrr felt like Reykjavík at night, but underneath it was all that and more, like trips to glaciers, waterfalls, and rusted out ships ghosting off the coast.
With new album, No Need to Reason, Kontinuum are more than ready to make up for Kyrr‘s lost time. Now signed to Season of Mist, Kontinuum are off the label blues and writing songs as captivating, diverse, catchy, and, of course, dark as any in their repertoire. The group also pivoted off of their Icelandic lyrics — English only — on No Need to Reason, but that’s not why it’s one of the best albums of 2018. It may not be immediate, as few things of quality are. Songs like “Shivers,” “Warm Blood,” “Low Road,” and “Stargaze” feel like a band reborn, fired up and on fire now that they have a new directive. No Need to Reason is a must-hear!
Decibel and guitarist Thorlakur Thor Gudmundsson teamed up to expose Kontinuum’s awesome, will-certainly-be-overlooked No Need to Reason.
What do you think makes Icelandic metal/rock unique? There’s certainly a different musical outlook from mainlanders.
Thorlakur Thor: The scene here is tight and venues are few. You have all kinds of bands playing shows together, sharing studios. That creates a certain blend of styles and musical kinship that would be impossible to reach in bigger cities or countries.
What kind of guitar setup does Kontinuum use? There’s a unique aspect to the guitar sound, almost post-punk but a lot dirtier.
Thorlakur Thor: There’s three of us so the spectrum is rather tight. We approach our instruments in completely different manner, tinkering everything to perfection. Creating a wall of sound. There’s definitely some of Killing Joke, The Cult, The Cure and My Bloody Valentine in there.
Do you see or feel the music Kontinuum writes as an exercise in risk taking? There’s orthodoxy but there’s also a lot of free-spiritedness.
Thorlakur Thor: We have always followed the music. Trying to push it in a direction it doesn’t want to go simply makes no sense. There have never been any genre walls within the but, there have been moments where we got to a certain point, thinking; “Wow, we really went there!” No Need To Reason really led us into some unexplored terrain.
How would you compare the period creating No Need to Reason from the period creating Kyrr? Were different things informing the songwriting or the way you approached music?
Thorlakur Thor: With every album or new song you create, you always have to dig a little deeper than the last time around. We could feel how our thought process as a group has developed and matured. As in any relationship, with everyday that passes you know a little more about each other. There are broken pieces of us shattered all over that record. It was a healing process of sort.
I felt the songs on No Need to Reason weren’t as immediate as on Kyrr. They’re a bit of slow burn. Was that the idea to have songs that required a deeper listen or longer burn in time?
Thorlakur Thor: We had no intention to be deeper or wiser in any way. All we wanted was to create a record of value, filled to the brim with general emotions and of content that mattered. The world is full of shitty music that is so shallow it doesn’t even touch the surface. If we’re not creating something that matters, why the hell do it in the first place? And we dug deep to create No Need to Reason, so, yeah, it makes sense that it sounds deeper or harder to reach than Kyrr, because No Need to Reason requires the listener to be present and experience it in his or her own way.
Which songs are speaking to you today and why?
Thorlakur Thor: Every song has a say. It’s best to give it a moment to discern if that say is worth your while.
Lyrically, no Icelandic lyrics. Foreign feeling or something that is now natural?
Thorlakur Thor: Lyrics are the toughest aspect of any recording. In the past we have approached language preference as a musical instrument. Icelandic with its ethereal, soft and ambient tone. While English has that harder, driven sound to it. We wanted to stick to one this time around. And the songs did all sit better with English lyrics. What it’ll be the next time around? Who knows?
Is there a theme to No Need to Reason?
Thorlakur Thor: A recurrent theme, no. A certain thought process, yes. All songs touch on different aspects, though all can be connected to a certain ideology. Irrelevancy in your own world, coming to grasp with things beyond your control and consequences to your actions and decisions. It’s easy to brush [aside] the lyrics as “emo” or melancholic. However, the listener is required to interpret it in their own way. Most people, for example, fear or will shy away from the subject of death. While others will see it unveiled in a certain mystery and beauty, embracing the thought that there is a finish line. So, whatever you choose to do with your time, make it matter.
What’s happening on the cover?
Thorlakur Thor: Beauty.
How do you see Kontinuum evolving from here? Heavier, poppier, etc.?
Thorlakur Thor: That’s really not entirely up to us. We can’t force what we do to go in a certain direction. No Need to Reason was supposed to be heavier than Kyrr, so go figure. All I know is this, whatever we do or wherever we go, it will be of the essence.
** Kontinuum’s new album, No Need to Reason, is out now on Season of Mist. Available formats include: CD and LP (on blue, purple, and black). Get this essential slab of Icelandic dreaminess HERE.