(We welcome first-time NCS writer Alex Atkinson, who makes his debut with a review of the recently released first EP by the Calgary-based heavy metal band Kontact.)
As our planet continues on its path toward ultimate doom, we must look to the cosmos for relief, enlightenment, and breakneck, extraterrestrial riffing. Kontact fills the vacuum of space with songs soaked in all the ancient technologies of heavy metal’s heroes while creating a sense of new possibilities that help the surging traditional metal scene remain exciting. Through the combined forces of Canadian powerhouse Traveler and the downright dirty Blackrat, Kontact has managed to harness their talents to finely (space)craft their debut EP, First Contact.
The album opener, “Ancient Malice”, uses some familiar tropes to build up to an unexpected vocal performance by singer, The Alien. The vocals sound a bit like Alice Cooper and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard stopped listening to music once they heard King Diamond’s lamentation, “Melissa”, while creating something stark and original inside that space. This is what really sets First Contact apart from an overwhelming couple years of excellent heavy metal releases. Surprising vocal melodies are around every corner on this track, not to mention the remaining four powerhouse songs.
The second track opens to a plodding, bass-footed riff full of all the grimace and depressing focus that one should expect from a title as powerful as “The Devil in Iron”. This ballad is based around Robert E. Howard’s favorite Cimmerian, Conan, and does a damn good job at breathing life into the otherwise tired use of the scantily clad barbarian in heavy metal. The chorus is reminiscent of Ozzy’s song “Perry Mason” from the otherwise soul-sucking album, Ozzmosis. Reserve your sneering; that’s what makes First Contact all the more exciting. The influences are obvious, albeit surprising, and utilized in such a way to encourage the great cosmic search for the riff.
By now, you might be asking yourself, “what the fuck does an alien-themed band have to do with Conan? Where’s the alien shit?!” Track three’s aptly titled “Heaven’s Gate” will surely satisfy your fist-pumping, xenomorphic rocker needs. Lyrically, Kontact is obviously referencing the death cult started in the 1970s by leader Marshall Applewhite, who Kontact has included a nice sound clip of in the latter bit of the track. This track is mostly driven by unsurprising guitars and typical musical choices, but it’s so well timed in the context of the album that I feel bad using words like “typical” and “unsurpring” in this sentence. All that goes out the window once the theremin solo comes blazing into the mix. Chorus-effect soaked guitars, sex-deprived-suicidal-cult lyrical content, and drums as powerful as a 454 big block, “Heaven’s Gate” has it all, folks.
“City of the Pyramid”, the fourth and last original track of the album, doesn’t skimp on strange choice of instrumentation either. A quiet organ passage helps maintain the overall balance as the song crescendos into a real-ass head banger of a track. When “City of the Pyramid” reaches maximum velocity and its cosmic energy is fully realized, strap in, space cadet. The soaring leads over a rolling, gallop-paced fast beat welcome in The Alien’s final lines of the track, but leave the listener wanting at least one more minute of the thrashing intergalactic riffage.
The closer of the album is a cover of “Fieldz the Sunshrine” by Canada’s Sacred Blade. There’s not much to be said here besides it is a well-done, faithful cover. The oddity of Canadian heavy metal in the mid to late ’80s remains unrivaled and largely undiscovered. There’s a goldmine there, check it out.
Despite the surge of heavy metal releases, this is one that is not to be ignored. With First Contact, Kontact has the throne firmly positioned in their tractor beam.
Wanted to like this, because I’m always looking for good traditional sounding bands, but I’m afraid those vocals just aren’t doing it for me
Fair enough! To be honest, I think the vocals make it a bit of a “love or hate it” type of band.