Crafting Sonic Horror with KONTUSION

Written by Scott Belzer | May 21st, 2024

Contusion. A region of injured tissue or skin in which blood capillaries have been ruptured; a bruise. An injury dwelling below the surface, causing pain, swelling and discoloration.

Kontusion. A two-piece death metal band based in New Jersey and Washington D.C., dedicated to highlighting the horrors of humanity both seen and unseen. Utilizing healthy amounts of feedback, distortion, blast beats, and guttural growls, Kontusion provides a filthy wall of sound to disarm its listeners and inject indefinite amounts of adrenaline.

In a society where both microaggressions and grand scale violence are tolerated (and let’s face it folks, celebrated) guitarist and vocalist Mark Bronzino sees no distinction between an unseen wound and extreme artistic expression. 

“The world is insane, you know? With our phones, we’re staring at horrible atrocities happening all over the world and then you scroll down, and there’s a cat. It’s fucking nuts. I don’t know who said this first, but art is a reflection and a mirror to society. That’s the job of the artist: to put a mirror to the world. So you have atrocities on large scales—war, famine, poverty—but you can still look at the world on a smaller scale and see atrocities that people commit against each other. Friends stealing from friends, family members killing family members. Is there a relation? It’s hard to know when you’re living in a world of violence and greed.” 

Kontusion unleashed their demo in 2022, but the project has been in the works for more than two years. Bronzino and drummer Chris Moore would link up while playing shows for other projects, or drive the couple of hours between D.C. and Jersey to hang out and collaborate. The end result is 17 minutes’ worth of sheer bedlam that captures the cavernous, sludgy sounds of modern death metal (think Witch Vomit, Mortiferum and Fossilization) but adds a raw (dare I say punk?) element to it that’s more reminiscent of Antichrist Siege Machine. No matter what you compare it to, it’s an aural assault.

Just let the track titles inform you of what Kontusion’s putting down: “Unrelenting Pain,” “Rotting with Sickness,” “Blood Church,” and “Charred Remains.” 

“This feels like the most me, or at least the part of me that I wanted to put out into the world,” Bronzino says. “This is the music I want to hear. Me and Chris have been friends for a long time…Musically, it’s always felt like we’re on the same page. Our styles complement each other very well. I love the way he plays drums. I’d bring him some ideas and he’d just tell me, ‘We’re just gonna blast over a lot of it,’ and I’d just be like, ‘Whoa! Okay!’ I tend to have a lot of ideas, and Chris was a great filter for them. Something happens when we play together – it’s like some weird, evil math equation comes together.” 

How two-piece bands like Kontusion pull off such an immense sound when performing live will always be a mystery to me. They’ve done it before, and will likely do it again. But for most live shows, they’ve recruited a bassist and even an occasional second guitarist to ensure crowds can really delve the depths, with one of the latest being at Maryland Deathfest.

While writing sewage-steeped riff after sewage-steeped riff, Bronzino says his aim was to craft music the way horror film directors craft their own masterpieces, injecting well-timed scares, measured intensity and a nightmarishly evil atmosphere. But only where appropriate, and only where they will be the most effective. This approach helped push his own limits and go where the music demanded.

“Sometimes, you just tend to play what feels good and play riffs that feel good under your fingers, but with this I was constantly asking myself how it sounded and how it could be more evil,” Bronzino says. “Death metal records are a lot like horror movies. They’re meant to scare you. When you’re thinking about songwriting or making a record as a whole, you have to think about the way an emotion impacts. When it starts, when it stops, when it gets a little weird and when it just fucking kills you. All of these dynamics are important – just like a horror movie. Most horror movies aren’t all 100% someone getting stabbed – some are, and that’s cool, too – but there’s a ton of dynamics going on.” 

A lot of newer technology helps move this process along, but Mark and Chris are taking their time to craft Kontusion’s first full-length record in summer 2024. Being accomplished musicians and sound engineers makes a lot of it seem easy, but staying true to the album’s overall goal and vision – complete and total aggression – is the primary aim. Mark says the immediacy of social media and general demand to constantly create “content” can often make an artist feel beholden to one thing or another. Considering Mark wrote one of Kontusion’s best riffs circa 10 years ago, he’s willing to ensure there’s little-to-no compromise.

“We haven’t even uploaded lyrics,” Mark says. “We want to keep it kind of shrouded in mystery.” 

And while the horrors of technology are on full display for anyone willing to look, Bronzino agrees it’s not all bad. Each day, a new crop of pissed off kids are buying cheap guitars and taking advantage of cheap apps to add their own voices amid the malaise. Without a print magazine, cable television station or proper radio station to gatekeep or tell them “That’s right!” or “That’s wrong!” the music machine has, in a sense, been decentralized. Blooming metalheads around the world can hear projects past and present with the click of a button. Their own tastes are guiding their listening habits as well as their musicianship.

“The interest in death metal and people starting new bands has been higher than ever, and I do think it has to do with access,” Bronzino says. “Back in the day, if you wanted to hear a band you would go to the show, watch them play live, have a cool cousin, buy a random 7″. If you wanted to know what Assück sounded like, you really had to try. Now, you may still have to try, but you can find it. You have every Assück record, right now, in your pocket. You have World Downfall in your pocket. Extended Death demos, you know? You have it all. There’s no trend or MTV telling kids what they should like. They’re deciding for themselves. A lot of aggressive music was gatekept because of its unmarketability, but I think we’re finding out that, if you have the choice to listen to Napalm Death, people are going to do it.”

In other words, more contusions are bubbling just below the surface. One can only hope they sound as brutally triumphant as this particular project.

-Scott Belzer

Kontusion is set to obliterate Boggs on Tuesday, May 24 with Stabbing, Xenobile and Gornormity. Buy tickets here.