KONTACT – First Contact (2022)REVIEW

A familiar alien face descending from the stars wrapped in a too-tight, hand painted leather jacket — The eccentric menace of mid-80’s not-so-traditional Canadian heavy metal finds its umpteenth generative barking mad meander in the hands of ex-Blackrat and current Traveler members-staffed troupe Kontact whom debut their stinking fresh stargazin’ n’ snarling alien personae with this five song EP, ‘First Contact‘. The elevator pitch for their sound’ll need some extra qualification, something like Voivod‘s over the top pre-‘Nothingface‘ slap across the forehead without all the speed metal mania in hand, opting for the patient, sometimes late 70’s prog weirding side of mid-to-late 80’s underground heavy metal. In this sense the appeal of the full listen is perfectly niche for the catalog exhausted ’81-’86 trad metal aficionado, something a bit punk in voice (see: Holocaust‘s ‘The Nightcomers‘) yet even more capable of sophisticated melodic expression wherein all pieces exist for the sole reason of infectious hook and performative value. You’re gonna remember their style, that voice, and the names of each of these songs after just a handful of listens.

Though I don’t think they’ve outright listed their names and roles Kontact appears to be a collaboration between Matt Ries (Traveler, Hrom) and two members of the now apparently split-up Blackrat; Based on the press photos included I gather this likely includes Ian Lemke and Russel Shanahan of the aforementioned group. This is only worthy speculation because these are bands of similarly nostalgic tradition which I would consider distinctly North American in context of said nostalgia, looking to some lite metalpunk traditions for edge but presenting 80’s Priest-and-Maiden guided heavy metal faith nonetheless. It’d be a mistake to infer entirely derivative style or sound but ‘First Contact’ does intentionally invoke a certain era with a bit of modern day spit-shine applied.

Opener “Ancient Malice” says this all up front with its angular syncopated ingress and raw-throated anthemic reveal. A break into riff at 2:07 minutes and then its full development into greater verse at 2:33 minutes showcase what curious outlier these folks have offered beyond the usual NWOTHM in put today, fully appealing to the’86 English Dogs attuned portion of my brain thanks to straight heavy metal hookiness for an easily read and enjoyed statement. The follow-up of “The Devil in Iron” nearly completes the hiring process with what I’d consider a torment ballad, a flexing bit of morbidity that shows us the Venom-edged realm these three folks have in common in the best way possible. Unless you’ve written off the band’s sound at this point it’ll be “The Devil in Iron” that entirely sticks in your craw, the sort of song that you’ll get a whiff of when you wake in the morning. The perpetual slow-grinding motion of this piece is, again, far from the expected fare of nowadays nostalgic heavy metal grunts and for my own taste it’d been the song to cement my affections for the gnarly, stickin’ out the lip yellow-fanged aura Kontact emanates.

“City of the Pyramid” is the second big snarling memoria to be had here, pushing quickly past the just-okayness of “Heaven’s Gate” into another slow to mid-paced piece that reveals a deeper appreciation for classicist traditional heavy metal spheres who’d found meaning despite Metallica-isms of their peers in the late 80’s; This’d licked a bit more once after I’d looked at the tracklist and realized the final track was a cover. My original notes had compared “Fieldz the Sunshrine” to an elaboration of “Devil’s Island”-era Megadeth‘s galloping inventiveness, perhaps because of the punkish ‘Where Legend Began’ x 80’s Snake-esque vocals and the main riff but this is actually a cover from mid-to-late 80’s Vancouver prog-trad metal act Sacred Blade‘s sole full-length ‘Of the Sun + Moon‘; It is a strong Side A-pulled track fans of earliest Fates Warning and Heir Apparent should appreciate. This choice of a cover is far from obvious and Kontact manages to make it their own thing to a point but, the speed metal attack of the rhythm guitars soon leave a hunger lingering over the rest of the experience and nearly distract from the trio’s own slightly more modern mid-paced cleverness. Anyhow, I had a blast with this EP as my reaction went from mildly annoyed first impressions toward an insidious craving for its alienated slow-burning anthemic qualities. No need for a “they’ve got promise” for this one, these guys are already trad metal pros and these songs seriously stick. A moderately high recommendation.

Moderately high recommendation. 77/100

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
TITLE:First Contact
LABEL(S):Temple of Mystery Records
RELEASE DATE:January 4th, 2022

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