#19: Virus - 'Memento Collider'
go buy all of their albums, they're that good
Virus is a band that has been around a while now from Norway. Norway is good at producing heavy yet odd bands with complexity and creativity. Virus is somewhere between eccentric rock and roll, prog rock, and heavier musical forms. The bassist is one of the most unique you will here, with a signature playful yet dead-on bass style, dancing around the root note while adding both rhythmic atonal elements and even a jazz swing, as well as strong melodic lines. The guitars are grating and somewhere between Voivod and the more abrasive guitar tones of underground noise rock. Rather than being hyper-distorted, the tone is derived from a more clear sounding amp.
Meanwhile, the vocals are what really sets the band apart. Vocal delivery comes across as some combination of goth metal crooner, a deeper David Bowie, and cloaked grim speaker of dark truths. Lyrically is where the genius comes in, with a wide variety of morbid themes that ruminate upon nostalgia, relationships, and the abstract mythology that is the background of human life.
On 'Memento Collider', the band dials it down a bit and lets things breathe. Even more amosphere can be heard, a little more subtlety. But the signature sound is there, everything is as it was in the past. Upon the first few listens, I was sort of let down by this album, wanting to hear some kind of next level from the band. Instead, it was more of a lateral move, a slight change in the shade of the sound. Virus are still very much themselves in their 2016 manifestation.
The album start out on a grueling sour note with "Afield". The bass dances around like a devil circling a campfire in some forgotten woods. Meanwhile the singer gazes over the fire and speaks aloud his observations and thoughts. On this opener, the band slowly unveil their horrific milieu of sound. It isn't until track 2 that things really get really captivating. On "Rogue Fossil" the band show off more dynamic transitions and tempo changes, referencing numerous genres with their multifarious sound.
Being that I like their earlier albums even more than this one, keeps them down further on the list than I would otherwise place them. At first my instinct was to throw this album into Honorable Mentions, but I remembered that I listened to 'Memento Collider' more than most albums in 2016. It was another of my go-to albums of the summer. And I found myself often having it on my phone mp3 players.
"Dripping Into Orbit" is another classic Virus track representing track 3. Much of this album's srength is during the early mid section, but its greatest feature is that it gets better with each listen. Just trying to follow the interplay of the complex basslines and the dissonant guitar chords and being occasionally wowed by easy to forget but perfect drumming. The drummer's ability to blend rock, jazz, and his own impeccably subtle style into a seamless whole is an impressive feat.
Sometimes the songs seem to wander a bit and are probably a bit too long, but these meandering parts help to set up new and surprising sung melodies, using the voice more as another instrument to give it a ghostly charm. Track 4, "Steamer" sounds a bit more like their older material. It has a really interesting and heavy descending riff where everything sounds like it is collapsing into a hole. There is much to talk about this band, as inimitable as they are. They are more funky than they are metal but more rock than jazz.
It is almost as if they are laying out the inner machinery of their sound on 'Memento Collider' as sort of a bizarre gesture of "here is how we are on the inside, now put our insides back together". This leads to some drawn out songs that may not be as concise as they could be, but they still keep it interesting by working with many moving parts and sections.
So perhaps one could say that Virus moved in a more progressive direction while not really sounding like prog rock. It is spindly, nervous music full of spines and backbones and sinew. Their constantly shifting sound sets them apart from the pack, but it is also dizzying and at times they feel lost in their own home. But maybe we all are these days.
The album closes out with a bit less originality and more of an obvious sound. It is still good but not as impressive as the bulk of the album. "Gravity Seeker" could have benefitted more from some editing of length even though it was the 2nd shortest song on the whole album. And "Phantom Oil Slick" ends the album on a downer, dirging along until well after a minute in where things pick up in an interesting new direction. Not one of their most creative tracks either, but still a fitting end to a dark album.
I would definitely check these guys out, regardless. One of the most different but cohesive bands in rock and metal music of recent times. They don't sound like anyone else and are still honing their sound. The way they unexpectedly shift gears and yet make it sound completely intentional is always a fresh experience, even though they will probably never go viral.