Virus - Memento ColliderTo fully appreciate the work of certain artists and bands, one often has to take a few steps back, pause, and try to understand the overarching plot. It’s only then, as the sight moves from narcissistic close-ups to long shots that hide details but reveal entire careers and troubled personal histories, that the moments and decisions leading to a record, the sheer artistic audacity, and the weight of concepts become clear. Norwegian trio Virus, and by extension its mastermind Carl-Michael Eide a.k.a. Czral, never steered away from oblique, almost hermetic forms that somehow seemed to cater to metal audiences while simultaneously belonging to completely different narratives. In that respect, Memento Collider is a culmination and possibly the band’s boldest statement to date.

By moving even farther from the black metal tropes found in Virus’ first record, Carheart, and by distancing themselves from the heritage of Ved Buends Ende, Memento Collider becomes the logical continuation of a path that the group has been set upon since 2008’s great The Black Flux. Rather than an aggressive metal machine such as those found in the French scene, Virus have the contours of a rambling, clinking, and tarnished apparatus that unstoppably trudges along disrupted lines fuelled by a sort of apocalyptic, surreal lyricism. A poem in motion, a vessel to deliver convoluted yet meaningful lyrics. Memento Collider is a slowly resolving art house flick, not a blockbuster. While many metal musicians will hide themselves behind either expected metal progressions and conclusions or outrageously and intentionally extravagant turns, Virus feels like a direct representation of Czral’s soul, one that uses music as an accompaniment for heartfelt recitation. Because of that, Memento Collider sounds sincere and offers glimpses of the childish playfulness of creation even when the work is seemingly so dark and serious.

Thus, thick, distorted riffs make way for sparse, spacey sounds. A very unusual, rasping guitar tone produces jangled, lightly dissonant chords that might have escaped the tyranny of a country or folk album. A weaving bass oscillates and walks up and down over uncharacteristic, progressive ridges. Drummer Einar Sjursø a.k.a. Einz syncopates his rhythms, giving the music a jazzy, raucous edge. All these elements are tied together by pronounced, almost exaggerated distances and guitar work that remains crucial despite being pushed back in the mix. The resulting style is nameless and unique. While there is a certain Voivodianess in the way that some riffs come into being, Czral’s convincing and theatrical spoken word cadence and the inescapable sense of content taking precedence over form invite me to place Virus alongside post-punk legacies and diatribes of greats such as The Fall or Wire. Still, as the grating, clicking, and reverberating start of “Afield” morphs into Morriconian panoramas and the strangely danceable galloping, spiraling rhythms of “Rogue Fossil,” it becomes clear that Virus don’t disturb themselves with questions of genre, but rather focus on delivering their own, unburdened and untainted vision.

Virus 2016

Whether it’s a driven and driving, idiosyncratic tune like “Steamer,” the ethereal “Dripping into Orbit” or a manifestly progressive piece like “Gravity Seeker,” this vision prevails. And it’s a quirky, nigh demented vision that makes you see apparitions that you know aren’t really there, a vision that projects the retrofuturistic scenery of dystopian worlds and contemplates the apparent futility and senselessness of human existence. As Czral himself confesses in a recent interview, the underlying lyrics and themes, created with the help of English writer Johannah Henderson and indirectly inspired by the Romanian poet Celan, are intentionally tangled, hiding a multitude of undecipherable layers and meanings. There is masochistic pleasure to be found in the fruitless attempts at deciphering this keyless stream of consciousness. Not by accident, such an approach is also reflected in the array of musical ingredients that Virus uses, from the surf rock pacing of “Gravity Seeker” to the subtle touches of musical saws on “Steamer” and wood blocks on “Phantom Oil Slicks.” Ingredients whose timbres evoke the self-inflicted loneliness and tragicomic wanderings of Sergio Leone’s morally grey spaghetti western heroes and the dark, unending voyages of Lisandro Alonso’s pained and tortured characters.

As I went back and revisited the rest of Virus’ discography in the past few weeks, my appreciation of Memento Collider grew considerably. There is maturity, clarity, and purpose hidden in its notes, murmurs, and rants. There is a sense of a band that’s fully understood its purpose and calling. While ostensibly standing still, they have evolved. And they continue evolving.


Rating: Great
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Karisma Records
Websites: virus.bandcamp.com | virusnorway.com | facebook.com/virusnorwayofficial
Releases Worldwide: Digital: June 3rd, 2016 | CD: June 10th, 2016

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  • Nag Dammit

    Fabio Leone? Was he Sergio’s goose-battering, male model alter-ego?

    • Roquentin

      AMG’s fanboyism has made me lose my mind. Now I see Rhapsody [of Fire] members everywhere!

      • Nag Dammit

        I now demand to see a Spaghetti Western scored by the non -Luca Turilli Rhapsody immediately. Or at least a concept album based on such things.

        • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

          Spaghetti Lord Of the Rings?

          • basenjibrian

            Spaghetti-Os Lord of the Rings!

          • Nag Dammit

            Once Upon a Time in the West-eros? I’ve gone too far.

          • Nag Dammit

            I should also say, nice album. Fully appreciate the write up. Downloaded (sorry, no way of playing physical media in household). Hangs head in shame.

          • [not a Dr]

            Isn’t that the Dark Tower series by Stephen King?

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            You’re absolutely right…

        • Roquentin

          Best we can do with that music is a porno, I’m afraid.

          • Nag Dammit

            So we have an overly earnest, symphonic, cowboy porno? I’d say that’s some genre defining stuff right there. Bound to tickle someone’s fancy and will perhaps produce a better result than trying to accommodate an orchestra and cowboyish-ness into a metal song???

  • Monsterth Goatom

    Reminds me a bit of Voices (they of “London” fame).

  • Thatguy

    Insightful review, thanks.

    I’m not sure that these guys have ever really been metal, but what they do is unique and wonderful.

    • Roquentin

      Thanks!

      AFAIK, they don’t think of themselves as a metal band. OTOH, they are on Metal Archives. ;-)

  • SegaGenitals

    These guys have a truly unique voice. Excited for this one.

    • Roquentin

      It’s a strong record. Up there with their best.

  • EnslavedEld73

    I love that the Fall were mentioned.

  • Innit Bartender

    Definitely a very original sound! Thanks for reviewing this! I’m on.

    • Francesco Bordoni

      It’s astoundedly refreshing really; I’m getting my hands on this as soon as I can!

      • [not a Dr]

        Makes me want to start a cover band.

  • talha beg

    Film Noir Metal.
    Listening to the black flux……what a band?!!?!?!

  • Not my cup of tea musically. Cool video though.

    • Roquentin

      Costin Chioreanu does some amazing work.

  • Francesco Bordoni

    That embedded song kicks an entire mountain of ass!

  • [not a Dr]

    It’s mellow-Voivod!
    Like taking Voivod riffs and re-humanizing them.
    Consider this bought.

    • Roquentin

      Their earlier records are a bit more aggressive and expansive (check out The Black Flux), while Memento Collider goes for a sparse, minimalist mood. Both approaches suit them quite well, though.

      • [not a Dr]

        This is becoming expensive. The t-shirts are white, so at least I’m saving on those.

  • GooberMan

    Wow, has it really been five years since their last LP?

  • I’ve been enjoying their past work a lot, but this new one might be my fave! I hope they will do a EU tour soon.

  • DyslexicWorkersUntie .

    definitely sounds like Ved Buens Ende..

  • gigilatrottola

    Non mi capirà nessuno ma, caro AMG, volevo lo stesso dirti grazie. Grazie!
    Google translator rende le tue recensioni comicamente incomprensibili ma, cavolo, finalmente ho un punto di riferimento.