After revelling in the latest release from Iceland, Kontinuum‘s “Earth Blood Magic,” ThisIsNotAScene‘s Chris Tippell took some time to chat with Kontinuum‘s Birgir Thorgeirsson. They talked about the formation of the band, the new album, the music scene in Iceland, influences and much more…
Hello, first of all thank you so much for your time.
According to your bio the band started up out of frustrations and self doubt faced with other projects. Can you tell us any more about this time for you guys?
I guess this is not a unique story, you’ve been with your band and feel creatively frustrated for some reason, the direction taken and relationships. Personally, I was not content with the compromises made at the time, not fulfilled. Just the normal musician whining. [Laughs]
For me, I didn’t know what or why it was missing. Just needed a change of environment and find the purpose again I guess. Thankfully, that’s sorted and has never been as clear and present. We have all been in bands for a long time with the highs and lows. We are all energized now.
What was your inspiration to play an ambient form of metal that you guys do? Who were/are your main influences?
Hard to mention a few bands, its all a big pile of influences. The roots are with ambient black metal from the nineties early work of bands such as Burzum, early Enslaved. Emperor, Ved Buens Ende, old Mayhem, Dissection.
The overwhelming darkness, depression and beauty of that area in black metal was life changing. Over the years there have been countless influences to name few but memorable Mogwai and Godspeed You Black Emperor!, Neil Young, The Cure, The Cult, UNKLE, old Anathema, Tiamat, At the Drive In, HAM, Singapore Sling, Future Sound of London etc.
It’s a wide range but every time you hear something you like your influenced in one way or the other. We have broad background and people like different stuff from black metal to hardcore, prog and arty indie bands. You can expect anything from us.
I felt there was a notable aspect in your sound that relates to Doom bands as well as the more ambient sounding acts. Would you agree at all?
Sure, that’s probably true. Don’t listen much to doom myself although Anathema’s “Silent Enigma” may be one of the best albums in history of all things depressing. There are moments of doom there, absolutely.
Is there a deeper meaning behind the album title “Earth Blood Magic”? It sounds like it could have a nature theme of sorts.
The phrase signifies the underlying theme of the album. It was not intentional, it developed. The album grew into becoming a religious effort, a strange quest for some sort of spirituality, alternative reality, dreams, soul or whatever you want to call it.
From a perspective of real life as we know it, not the Harry Potterish ritual nonsense. So, I would say that’s a nature theme in a general way, nature of man, nature of reality, earth and our place in it. I think all people struggle with these questions in life, their purpose and place within it.
It became a sort of trance meditation and an overwhelming feeling of a connection to a place we feel Kontinuum music comes from. I think we found something, reached a certain conclusion that has changed me at least and how I see things and my own life and conviction. Its hard to describe in cold words or even trying to sound sane to those that pretend they don’t understand. Listen.
How has the feedback from the album been thus far? Are you happy reviews thus far?
We haven’t really had a bad review yet. We try not to be influenced by them but you cant help but being curious, of course they matter. But if you start feeding on peoples praises you are doomed.
Apparently, we are influenced by some bands we’ve never heard. Need to check those. Slightly irritating seeing references with our good friends in Sólstafir, but should have expected that, both are unorthodox. Nothing worse than the suggestion that you may be following the success trail of your friends.
Otherwise, we respect the reviewers, their time and attention. It’s early days but so far its been very good and we are happily surprised with the initial reaction.
What can you tell us about the Icelandic metal scene?
Its great, plain and simple. There was total death here back in the nineties after death metal went out of fashion. No one was interested, no gigs played, there was one tiny rack of albums in a small store in Reykjavik, then you had to rely on mail order.
Hardcore came and went and now there is a strange mix. I think metal has never been as diverse, interesting and noticeable here. Skálmöld, Sólstafir and HAM (the gods of icelandic metal!) all made national charts and great acts here such as Momentum, Angist, Muck, Atrum, Svartidauði, Norn, Dimma etc. Then the psychedelic indie is awesome too Dead Skeletons, Singapore Sling, Go Go Darkness. I could go on and on.
A lot of interesting bands overall. Going to a random gig you usually find something interesting.
Has the critical acclaim that Sólstafir have been receiving had an effect on Iceland’s music scene and on you guys would you say?
I’m sure some people have checked up on some Icelandic bands because of their acclaim but in the end people have to like the music they find. Their effect and recently of Skálmöld has been hugely motivational one for younger bands and set an example with their professionalism, playing abroad and releasing through noticeable metal labels. This creates more good bands and spreads enthusiasm and creativity.
In a way Skálmöld probably has had the most popular success here and had their album at the top of national charts for many weeks. Many bands here are mature and good, I would not be surprised to see a noticeable Icelandic signing soon.
Sadly, I don’t think we can call us a young band, even though we are new, we have been around as long as anyone. I remember when Potentiam and Sólstafir where the only ones releasing albums internationally within this scene. I notice now how extremely recognized they have become.
We have not been effected by their work, some of our album is even older than their last 2 albums, we have been developing in other bands and individually for many years. Sólstafir being great might be a recent thing to some, nothing new to us.
How has your relationship been with Candlelight Records since you signed to them?
In the short time we have been there its been great. We really like them. They are good communicators and professional, even when faced with our razor sharp off putting black Icelandic humor.
Does your signing with such a highly acclaimed label as Candlelight raise focus on your home country’s scene?
I don’t know. A band from Greece signing with Candlelight doesn’t make me wanna check up on all Greek bands. If it helps someone, great, I can sleep easy because I know there are bands here that deserve more attention.
I have never been a fan of the scene concept though, they have a tendency to create sort of normalized musical direction which the majority accepts and an unintentional peer pressure.
We have had that here, hardcore, death metal, now its a much better mix, there is no particular obvious direction.
How is your touring schedule for the album looking; do you have much touring in the pipeline?
There is nothing booked, we are getting prepared and then we will see. We just added a new member and are currently rehearsing . We want to start playing for friends and the local crowd, but plan to be visible soon.
Finally, thank you so much for your time. Anything you would like to add or comment?
No, thank you! We appreciate the interest and attention.