Virus – “Rogue Fossil” (Stereogum Premiere)

Back in late April, Ian Chainey wrote up “Steamer,” the excellent first single from Memento Collider, Virus’ fourth LP. He got started like so:

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 are 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.

I agree, and I’m not sure if you even can adequately prepare someone for Virus, any more than you can verbally explain the experience of seeing the Grand Canyon in person for the first time. But, because they’re paying me the big bucks, I’m gonna try.

Virus consists of Norwegian black metal escapee Carl-Michael “Czral” Eide and two of his talented bandmates from the short-lived Ved Buens Ende, a mirage of an experimental metal act whose influence colors the works of heavyweights like Blut Aus Nord and Leviathan. Virus essentially carries on Ved Buens Ende’s approach, sans all overtly metal elements. It’s rock music, but recast as something alien — Czral has cited fan appraisals of the band as “a mixture of Talking Heads and Voivod.” You could imagine Scott Walker, whom they’ve covered, arriving somewhere in this neighborhood too, if only he were more into riffs.

But when I listen to Virus, I always think of deserts instead of groping for influences — vast, desiccated landscapes that seem to go on forever, that play tricks on the mind. Czral painted their most recent album almost entirely with melancholy images of desolate wildernesses and remote expanses. Memento Collider, for its part, suspends itself in the chill of space whenever it’s not down in the dust.

These realms can be frightening, but they’re also hauntingly beautiful. Czral and Virus have won a devoted following over the years thanks to this perversely inviting quality. Consider “Rogue Fossil.” Its nervous shuffle and up-the-ribcage guitar clatter will immediately inform you that you are now in unfamiliar country, and Costin Chioreanu’s nightmare-fuel storybook of a music video deepends the impression. But even Czral’s deadpan croon somehow does not stop “Rogue Fossil” from immediately registering as a song — not a “piece” or “suite” whatever, but a song — and a damn fun one at that. Virus’s music often evokes dreamy introspection, but “Rogue Fossil” showcases their springy, sardonic side. It is highly unusual for music this weird to offer such immediate delights. Listen.

Memento Collider will be out on 6/3 via Karisma Records.