Kontinuum – Shivers the SpineTuesday, 10th July 2018
The problem with being from an exotic, much-queried upon country is that the fascination may never run out. Geographic location is often used as a sonic measuring stick in metal — it’s a time-honored tradition dating back to when Sabbath and Priest emerged from the smokestacks of Birmingham, England. From there, it’s been everything from the Bay Area to New York, down to Florida, across to Stockholm, around to Germany, back through Scandinavia…you get the idea. And here sits Iceland, the home of atmospheric metallers Kontinuum.
Now on their third album, No Need to Reason (also their first for Season of Mist), Kontinuum is the offshoot of several Icelandic bands that came to full realization in 2010. Their Earth Blood Magic debut and Kyrr follow-up were both accelerated bounds between post-black metal, progressive metal and flat-out melodic songwriting. In some ways, they are the anti-Icelandic band — you wouldn’t know Kontinuum hailed from the country if not for their lyrics being in Icelandic. On No Need to Reason, the band has completely done away with their native tongue, offering up a heady, steady, practically smooth release sung in English that while less heavy than its predecessors, eases along with grace and maturity, ably blending heavy rock and swirling metal. These topics (and more) vocalist/guitarist Birgir Thorgeirsson was all too kind to discuss in this email interview. Read on…
Dead Rhetoric: “Growth” is a word that could be applied to Kontinuum at the moment. With every album, you’ve made strides and/or enhancements. Now you’re on Season of Mist. Do you see it that way, too?
Birgir Thorgeirsson: I guess so. We have been lucky to get labels to release what we do. We have had ambitions to deliver the best music we can. We like to see things evolving, keep things interesting but staying true to our own voice.
Dead Rhetoric: Kyrr was such a triumph, too. Can you describe the amount of work that went into following it up?
Thorgeirsson: We put in a lot of effort into the album for sure. We did pre-production of all songs and tried out many new things. We spend a lot of time thinking about the details. Pre-production is a long time. Difficulties and events in our personal lives also delayed the process and probably also colored the outcome. We are very pleased with it; it’s as close to what we aimed for as we could expect.
Dead Rhetoric: Was the idea with No Need to Reason to take what you did well on Kyrr and essentially expand upon it?
Thorgeirsson: We didn’t really ever discuss it like that. We know our sound a lot better this time around. Since then, we have developed a more of a collaborative voice in what we do. Kyrr was much more unknown territory for us. That was essentially our first proper band album.
Dead Rhetoric: Unless I’m mistaken, this is the first Kontinuum album without Icelandic lyrics. Any particular reason why you went in another direction?
Thorgeirsson: Yes, I can confess it was more of a headache this time around. I wanted the album to be in one language. I felt it would be more consistent. Kyrr was in both Icelandic and English. When writing the vocals and lyrics we tried both languages on a few songs and we liked the English better for those. The album is vocal heavy and they are upfront. Icelandic is, of course, a language nearly no one knows. Call me superficial, but that was a factor if this was an ambient album or a death metal album it doesn’t matter at all. For this album, I thought it might do. Imagine listening to Killing Joke in Korean or any other foreign language? Use of language depends on the songs and albums. This is what we chose for this one.
Dead Rhetoric: To that point, do you feel the band is almost too tied to your Icelandic roots? As in, there can be no mention of Kontinuum without noting the fact you’re from Iceland?
Thorgeirsson: Yes, I think you are right. It’s getting pretty tired. There is too much of “nature-wanking” to translate directly the term we use, in Icelandic musical perception. I know a lot of people like the country and are interested, but it leaves a bad taste to cater specially to those people and the stereotype. We are doing music as individuals, not representatives of a nation. Doesn’t mean we can’t be influenced by these stereotypical Icelandic factors people know, it’s just that we don’t want to emphasize that. So, to follow up on your previous question, as your hinting to maybe, a factor in having it all in English is also to take the album a bit further away from the Icelandic concepts.
Dead Rhetoric: Anyway, the songs on No Need to Reason are striking, really quite immediate. What was the songwriting approach this time out?
Thorgeirsson: This time around we wanted to have a mix of songwriting approaches. More individuals contributed with demos which the band then worked further on. Then, we also had songs that were created in even more collaboration. All songs had time within the band however and pre-production was done for everything. We spent a lot of time on pre-production. The vocal recordings I did myself this time around. I felt much better and it felt a lot more authentic rather than being stuck in a booth with a guy looking at the clock on the other side.
Dead Rhetoric: And vocally, this is your best performance all the way. You sound really confident across the board. Was the idea here to put the vocals more in focus?
Thorgeirsson: Thank you. I decided to change a few things in the recording process. I recorded all the vocals by myself this time around. It felt more genuine. I wanted to get more authenticity through. So, I spent countless hours looking for vocal lines, moods, phrasings and eventually concepts. The concepts are important to me, to have a deeper meaning to relate to. This also took time to come through so that I was satisfied.
Dead Rhetoric: With the exception of adding Kristjan [Gudmundsson, drums] four years ago, your lineup has remained intact. What makes the core of Kontinuum work so well together?
Thorgeirsson: I think all bands need to have a healthy dose of humor to survive for long. Not only that, but that’s important. We enjoy each other’s company. We trust each other and know how to play to each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We try to lay down egos and respect every individual’s artistic motivation. We are more likely to quit the band if one of us leaves. A band is not just individuals, it’s a shared voice.
Dead Rhetoric: Finally, what’s on your agenda for the rest of 2018?
Thorgeirsson: Finish planning tour dates for autumn.