Review Summary: Let the virus infect you, wherever you go.
Virus' latest album, Memento Collider
, has the same sort of intention for 2016 that Dodheimsgard's A Umbra Omega
and Lychgate's An Antidote for the Glass Pill
had for 2015: To sound like no other record released this year. Every time a band promises that their upcoming album will sound like no other, it's usually quite the opposite and it's even harder for the listener to compensate the amount of uncontrolled hype supporting said album. If you're Virus however, who were one of the first bands around when the Norwegian black metal scene began to take more than a mere passing interest in avant-garde musicianship, you don't really need to prove that your album will be untouched.
Such is the reputation that Virus have received over the years for being a more distilled albeit still inquisitive answer to the more bizarre likes of Dodheimsgard and Arcturus, that you don't really need to do your homework before listening to Memento Collider
. It's an album that, even for Virus, sounds completely new. You could argue that their sole purpose as a band had already been fulfilled on past efforts (particularly The Agent that Shapes the Desert
), but Memento Collider
from the get-go gives you the impression of a band reborn, rather than reworked. The pleasant, both settling and unsettling opener, "Afield" is the best proof you need to realize that Virus are on a mission to be as bizarre as possible without any fear of sounding like a bit of a circus act. The poppy underlying groove gets heads nodding almost instantly, the swirling guitar chords make for a subtly sexy ringing in the listener's ears, and Czral's creepy vocal delivery serves as a bit of a maniacal sermon. Whilst the song remains relatively straightforward in its musical direction, the halfway point does signify a louder, more intense energy which automatically surrounds you as seamlessly as its first few moments. "Afield" is simply one of the best songs of its kind, yet at the same time it does its job perfectly: to be in a field of its own.
Be this as it may however, no other song on Memento Collider
comes within touching distance of the quality of that opening ten-minute epic. The rest of the album is great, but you never really get the impression that Virus take off or get into full flight of their ambitions. Sure, there are numerous hints of the band's musicianship becoming more and more eccentric, but it doesn't quite feel like Virus have reached the destination they wanted to-it's more like they're only 90% of the way there. Frustrating as that is, there is a lot of post-punk influence here, and that probably compensates the poppy, industrial grooves throughout near enough every song. In fact, I would go as far as to say that if you don't get the vibe of latter-day Killing Joke here from the get-go, you may need to give the record another listen. The main problem with this groove is that, as unmistakably infectious as it is, the repetition will undoubtedly get tiresome for those who prefer their avant-garde/progressive metal a little more frenzied. The hypnotic musicianship is brilliant if you're listening to the odd song from Memento Collider
, but in one fifty-minute block, you can get the wrong sort of headache. That said, the darker tones of "Dripping into Orbit" and "Steamer" are very promising and the heavier guitar work manages to break free of any loss in momentum beforehand.
Virus' Memento Collider
, like any other record self-proclaiming to be "like no other", obviously has tons of ambition at stake. What the band have seemingly lost in translation however, is the idea of grasping a climax for each and every song here to fully make sense, to get to where it has intended to go from the beginning. Then again, with Virus' well-renowned history in the avant-garde metal field, you can't fault their ever-aspiring talents to attempt to go where no band has gone before. Put simply, Memento Collider
is one of 2016's more interesting, charming works, and will undoubtedly lull the listener into a false sense of security.