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Kontinuum - "Earth Blood Magic" (CD)

Kontinuum - "Earth Blood Magic" CD cover image

"Earth Blood Magic" track listing:

1. Endgame (5:17)
2. Steinrunninn Skógur (9:06)
3. Moonshine (6:49)
4. Strange Air (5:14)
5. Lightbearer (5:19)
6. City (7:18)
7. Lýs milda ljós (5:55)
8. Red (5:43)
9. Í Gljúfradal (5:00)

Reviewed by on January 31, 2013

"'Earth Blood Magic' has a good amount of character to it, as atmosphere is the band’s forte."

Kontinuum comes from the icy climate of Iceland, and their first album “Earth Blood Magic” just recently washed its way onto U.S. soil. Progressive metal is their game, though there are hints of black metal scattered about to inject some edge into their otherwise low-key style. “Earth Blood Magic” has a good amount of character to it, as atmosphere is the band’s forte. That comes with the price; the lack of outright stunning material hinders the album, and the last two songs almost seem like they were taken from an entirely different album.

The band doesn’t appear to be trying to stretch the boundaries of what progressive metal and black metal can do together. There has been a labeling of their music to the effect of “progressive black metal,” but that moniker comes off as superficial in hindsight. The whole post black metal jargon could also apply, though the black metal elements are limited at best. “Lightbearer” and “City,” with harsher vocals and faster tempos, overwhelm the tranquility present in tracks like “Steinrunninn Skógur.”

When the songwriting gets into progressive sonic terrain, the band seems most centered. “Strange Air” explores prog rock territory with its spacey keyboards and lulling vocal harmonies. “Endgame” is an energetic instrumental befitting of a proper introduction to the album. Throughout even the most abrasive instances on the album, there is always a lush keyboard melody in the background or a calming break on the horizon. None of these transitions come off as shifty or awkward, and Kontinuum deserves credit for pulling that off.

What they do stumble with is the last few songs, “Red” and “Í Gljúfradal.” This duo isn’t poorly performed, but ends the album on a shaky note. The former is heavy on the female vocals, and doesn’t have that one defining moment to bring any emotional climax to what was built up over six minutes. The latter is a piano-driven ballad deeply laced with sorrow and passion, but other than some prominent symphonic sounds thanks to a wonderful strings section, feels like a sappy ‘80s ballad translated to a 2013 audience.

“Earth Blood Magic” is not a difficult listen, save for a few tracks that are sung in Icelandic. As long as a language barrier isn’t an issue, “Earth Blood Magic” should be no sweat. It’s heavy enough to attract the die-hard metal throes, but also light enough to find common ground with the prog crowd. A foundation is put into play with “Earth Blood Magic” that can only grow into a worthwhile endeavor if Kontinuum expands on what works on the album.

Highs: Progressive metal meets blackened fury, vocals have a lot of variety to them, rich atmosphere

Lows: Last two songs don't fit in with the rest of the album, and end the album on a bland note.

Bottom line: "Earth Blood Magic" sputters near the end, but has enough solid content to warrant a listen.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)