Here is a very fun game if you’re people watching in a city: Artsy or Deranged. It’s usually borderline impossible to tell the difference. Odds are that without looking below the surface and examining you will probably be right only fifty percent of the time. The same can easily be applied to music. Whether Virus is an artsy band or the work of a deranged mind is difficult to ascertain at first blush. What is certain is that Memento Collider is yet another step toward the avant-garde and away from typical noise experimentation for Virus.
Virus are likely best known for their 2008 release The Black Flux. (Although the 2011 follow up The Agent That Shapes the Desert which added a near ambient country-style of influences is al phenomenal.) That album found them experimenting with a vast expanse of atmospheric sounds and noise all overseen and overshadowed by the near-monotone, near-shout vocals of Czra0l which sound a lot like the announcing tones of Don Pardo who you might recall from Weird Al Yankovic’s “I Lost on Jeopardy” or perhaps his work on Saturday Night Live. For those uncomfortable with that comparison, perhaps, there’s a metal vocal connection to A.A. Nemtheanga on Primordial’s 2007 release To The Nameless Dead.
The man from Norway was blunt when he formed Virus. He was looking simply for, and I quote:
“Virus is more of an eccentric rock band than a metal band. People have said it sounds like a mixture of Talking Heads and Voivod. Virus is linked musically to my old band Ved Buens Ende, but shouldn’t be looked upon solely as its predecessor”
If there’s a complaint to be made about Virus (aside from the use of a woodblock on the closing track “Phantom Oil Slick”) it is that perhaps they don’t evolve enough. For such an “out there” style band that has proclaimed that their goal is to be exactly that, there is the tendency to want more. To want to see Virus just blow the lid off the thing. But that’s not their style. Rather, much like the slow build and decay of their tracks, their career has slowly but surely risen and collapsed like dough. Czral appears to be creating something larger than band. Something larger than just a collection of tracks crammed onto a wax disc. Rather, Virus is a fantasy realm in which the listener can not only get lost aurally but reside mentally should they choose.
As the more than ten minute opening track “Afield” slowly opens, the guitars lazily strumming open chords with plenty of reverb before the rocking bass-lines and near disco beats prevail. As if heralding the call of the coming age Czral’s voice breaks through. Like a magician ready to reveal his parlor trickery he croons. It’s his voice that is captivating. It’s no wonder that so many television shows have used voices like this to promote their content. When he commands, you listen. Yet, the simplicity of his calls allows for plenty of instrumentation to occur beneath. Without crashing into each other the disco beat, bass lines that strut like an over-served floozy and devo-esque guitars seem to be altering a no-wave pattern akin to such acts at the Lounge Lizards.
Tracks like “Gravity Seeker” differ from the norm with guitar solos and just a touch of melodic twists and turns. That track, rolling along with a surf rock pace, has a very classic, 1950s feel creating the aura of invincibility. But, like many Virus tracks, there’s plenty of rhythmic breakdown and confusion to keep the listener off-kilter. Contrasting tracks like “Rogue Fossil” provide a more jaunted, disjointed rhythm hiccuping along with plenty of hammer-ons and pull-offs from the guitar.
Thus, we come to the point where it’s clear that Virus is not merely deranged. Not merely something to be gawked at from afar. Rather, Virus is genius. And Memento Collider is yet another level in the pyramid to ascension. Virus continues to build and, as they do, their focus narrows as they near the apex. Growing ever closer to leaving this atmosphere and entering the one which they create with their all encompassing auditory blanket of music.