Make “First Contact” with Kontact’s Exceptionally Alien Heavy Metal (Interview + Early EP Stream)
Strange soundscapes and stranger riffs are the order of the day with new Canadian maniac sci-fi metallers Kontact, whose debut EP drops tomorrow on Temple of Mystery Records. Featuring veteran metal warriors from bands like Traveler and Blackrat, First Contact (missed opportunity to double up on the “K”s!) is a journey through the unknown; there is nothing predictable contained within other than a promise of really cool and unusual songwriting.
Though the intro to the first song “Ancient Malice” might trick listeners into thinking something more conventional is being delivered under a guise of weird art—seriously, what’s up with the hexagon-sphinx?—the vocals coming in thoroughly disabuse that notion: these guys are playing for alien keeps. Every line of majestic extraterrestrial howling delivered over the music is carefully crafted; it seems to follow strange melodic paths not often explored, but the execution is masterful and still works despite the approach. This always off-kilter edge to the music via the strange and otherworldly singing is sustainable as a valid artistic approach because the actual music itself follows the same lines to some extent, and it speaks to the band’s songwriting ability that some of the more out of vogue choices work.
One of the most cutting examples of the band’s mastery over their craft is the second song, “The Devil in Iron.” On paper it shouldn’t work; though it’s structured as a doom epic, there’s no tension that it builds towards, the riffs themselves aren't particularly heavy or sinister, and sometimes the tone almost approaches that of a ballad. Instead of coming across as weak or plodding, the song is a captivating and emotional (in terms of how the music is carried—the lyrics about Conan’s terrifying physicality and barbarian murder-lust are anything but weepy) soarer, catchy as all hell and one of the most memorable singles in recent heavy metal memory. Each song has these moments of disbelief, of riffs and bridges and sections that just don’t sit with what heavy metal is “supposed” to be, and in this push towards individuality and disregard for norms Kontact finds their voice: prophets for uniqueness, and for the power of not only standing out from the pack but also spending some valuable muscle on trying to hunt it.
From doom metal to speed metal to heavy metal and from dumb muscles to brainy high science fiction, Kontact try to blend it all into their music. Shockingly enough, they more or less manage it, and super fucking bonus points for the excellent Sacred Blade cover, too—they’re a big favorite over here, and disgustingly underrated. Give them a listen when you’re done with the Kontact EP.
While listening to the exclusive premiere of First Contact read below for an interview with The Alien (aka Ian Lemke).
What impetus drove the creation of a new band, especially given Matt's already-busy involvement with the highly successful Traveler? What inner need does Kontact fill that other bands have not?
All the Kontact material was written and arranged by The Alien (ex-Blackrat), who had re-located the band from foreign shores and needed a few brave souls to join him in sculpting the interdimensional SOS transmission that is First Contact. Once hypnotized by the mind-control frequencies of such hits as Ancient Malice and City of the Pyramid, guitar mercenary Matt B1257+12 Z was physically unable to discontinue his involvement in the project. This is good news for the planet earth heavy metal community. Traveler does great work exploring the final frontier. Kontact, on the other hand, is dedicated to exploring many frontiers, all of which are even finaler.
Though the album cover and promotional material point squarely at science fiction as the band's theme it's clear from the Robert Howard worshiping lyrics of "The Devil in Iron" that sci-fi isn't all that went into the band. Is there any single point that every song has to revolve around or is anything fair game as long as it fits?
I don’t know what you’re talking about. All of the lyrics are true stories that happened to multiversal replicas of ourselves in simultaneous realities. HOWEVER, you’re absolutely right that the puny science fiction genre is too puny, far too puny in fact to contain our many thoughts about the galaxy. Anything on the space-time continuum is fair game. Except for Lovecraft, that’s one dead (space)horse that’s been beaten long enough.
Kontact covered cult Canadian heroes Sacred Blade to close out this record; what's the significance of Sacred Blade to you guys, and should we expect more ancient Canadian magistry to be covered on future releases?
Jeff “The Pilot” Ulmer was a God from beyond time. We are pleased to see Sacred Blade/Othyrworld finally getting the recognition they deserve. Regarding future plagiarisms, our technicians have been hard at work on a certain Voivod song, but this is not for physical reproduction. Good idea though, perhaps we should unearth another ancient obscurity for the full-length album.
Are there any influences other than the obvious that might surprise listeners?
During the initial mindstorm phase, the works of the following subgroups of humans were harvested: Sacred Blade, Judas Priest, Voivod, Kat (Poland), Dio, Accept, Manilla Road, Master’s Hammer, Sigh (Japan), Ozzy, and others. Whether or not influences from these organizations were successfully osmosified into the final amalgamation is unknown. At some point one must simply (space)rock.
Strange soundscapes and themes are tied together by cover art of a spacefaring sphinx. Where did the concept for the band's aesthetic come from? Do you foresee it lasting multiple releases?
Kontact has a sacred preoccupation with walking the razor-thin laser tightrope between mind-expanding high-science philosofantasy and complete nonsense. Heloïse Merlin’s breathtaking rendering of a sphinx statue flying through space is a fine mascot for this holy quest. I fear this image, bestowed upon me by a distant cosmic thought-being during a chemically induced dream-trance, may simply be a ripoff of the 1994 film Stargate, which is not a good movie. The future of the band’s imagery has been predetermined since the big bang and possibly before that, as is true of all things. We’ll let history decide if we kept using the space sphinx, or switched to something even more stupid.
Kontact is forever terrifyingly indebted to the following entities: Annick & Francois at Temple of Mystery, Heloise and co at Cursed Ritual, and all the people from various zines, YouTube channels, podcasts etc. that have shown interest in the band. Due to a very inconsiderate viral intruder from a rival galaxy, we have no definite plans for in-person performances, but follow @kontact.heavy.metal on your favorite mind-control outlet for the latest updates. END TRANSMISSION.