Virus – “Steamer”

Virus – “Steamer”

Sure, if these blurbs serve a function, it’s doing the prep work before you hit play. But, if you’ve read this far and Virus is an unfamiliar name, maybe it’s worth diving into “Steamer” sans info. It’s just rare to feel the spark of something new without being forcibly preconditioned by expectations and magnetized-for-clicks hyperbole. Plus, if there’s a style that functions better when a listener is forced to parachute into unmapped terrain, it’s rock and metal’s avant-garde side. So, uh, do that. Then read on.

OK, now let’s fill in the gaps. “Steamer” sits in the middle of Memento Collider, Virus’ fourth album. Singer/guitarist Czral has a god-mode C.V., first surfacing as drummer on demos for Norwegian legends Satyricon and Ulver before hitting his multi-instrumentalist stride in Ved Buens Ende. The latter’s 1995 full-length, Written In Waters, is like a secret handshake for metal weirdos. Not that Carheart, Virus’ 2003 debut about cars and dogs, was any less out-there. And, when Decibel asked Czral for a comment on his newest work, he called it, “a tribute to extinct instincts and Chernobyl Wildlife.” Noted.

However, it’s not like Czral is beholden to only the bleak and bizarre. Under the name “Aggressor,” he has been leading blackened thrashers Aura Noir since 1993. He’s also the guitarist for Inferno. That duality makes Czral interesting. He, much like any real person, allows himself to be eclectic. He ably bounces between classic redlined aggression and the vertigo-tinged thrill of experimentation. The thing is, neither side dominates. It’s not really a matter of compartmentalization — each interest has a way of informing the other — but it’s definitely a display of ambidexterity.

Not that that was the reason to go into this blind. But, when playing armchair musicologist and thinking about how Czral’s humanity factors into the way he disperses his prodigious talent, it’s easy to overlook “Steamer”‘s standalone pleasures. There’s Czral’s cool, controlled vocal, sometimes backed by a wistful maybe-theremin. There’s the clean-ish guitar that’s fringed with the fry of radiation. There’s the equally hooky and knotty basswork provided by Plenum, a returning member whose other gig, Manimalism, is one of the more interesting projects to surface lately. There’s Einar Sjursø’s subtly massive drumming, perfectly providing the right snap to every rise and fall. There are nearly eight minutes of grooves patiently fighting over the title of “that groove.” There is and there are and there is and there are. Really, “Steamer” just is a lot of things. So many, it’s hard to focus on the important stuff unless you heard that stuff first.

Memento Collider is out 6/3 on Karisma Records.

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