VIRUS — The Black Flux (review)

VIRUS — The Black Flux album cover Album · 2008 · Avant-garde Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
Following in the footsteps of his lauded Ved Buens Ende, Carl-Michael Eide better known as Aggressor, Czral or Exhurtum unleashed his musical pathogen called VIRUS in the year 2000 and crafted a sound that was a hybrid of his Ved Buens Ende era and the more progressive thrash sounds of Voivod. “Blackheart” came out in 2003 but such avant-garde metal sounds were not yet as en vogue as they would become a few years later and therefore the album went a bit under the radar despite crafting some incredibly intricate deliveries of jazz-tinged jangle metal steeped in dissonance and avant-prog angularities. Czral (the name he used for the VIRUS project) would wait five whole years for a follow-up as most of his energy was spent in other projects such as Aura Noir, Cadaver and Dødheimsgard.

The sophomore album THE BLACK FLUX was unleashed in 2008 and by that time the public had caught up to some of the more adventurous metal sounds that had been spewing forth since Gorguts caught the world off guard with its bizarre death metal madness on “Obscura.” Once again VIRUS consisted of the trio of Eide on guitar and vocals along with Petter Berntsen “Plenum" on bass and Einar Sjursø "Einz" on drums. Unlike “Carheart” there are no additional vocalists but instead a couple of additional guests who offer some extra touches with the baritone guitar, violin, piano, slide guitar, soundscape effects and ambience. Having gained a foothold in the underground metal scene, the Seasons of the Mist label sniffed VIRUS out and signed them for this second coming.

Two factors in play meant THE BLACK FLUX would experience a wider range of recognition from not just the critics but also the avant-garde metal loving public. Firstly the sounds of dissonant Voivod inspired jangle chords laced with progressive rock and thrashy metal had become more mainstream with many new bands venturing out into the adventurous world of experimental rock that adopted more aggressive metal bombast. Secondly, THE BLACK FLUX is a bit more accessible than its predecessor which meant that the recipe was ripe for those seeking music on the cutting edge to go all gaga over. This second album is much more streamlined than the first with nine tracks cruising on for slightly over 53 minutes of playing time however if the comparisons with Voivod were valid on the first album, on THE BLACK FLUX those comparisons are even more valid.

While the opening sounds of “Stalkers Of The Drift” offer a bleak atmospheric ambient backdrop, the bombastic dissonant guitar riffs quickly enter the scene and establish a paradigm that defines the entire album’s sound. Augmented with guitar chords that sound out of tune which are rhythmically propelled through jittery angular processions, the unique declarative vocal style of Czral fills the cracks between the staccato driven cacophonous counterpoints of the bass, guitar and drums. While there are many moments when the three instruments are in direct oppositions, often they come together for a cacophonous, thunderous roar of jangly guitar chords, avant-grooviness of the bass and jazzified drum fills with an abundance of metal energetic drive. The disharmonies harken back to the Ved Buens Ende days for sure but the Voivod connections are more in your face this time around.

The strengths of THE BLACK FLUX is that the album is impeccable in its delivery of this highly caustic stilted avant-garde metal that provides a bass groove and decorates it with freakery from all angles however THE BLACK FLUX fails to exude the same wow factor that “Carheart” does. While this album perfectly adheres to the formula set out by the debut, it seems more like some of the dynamics had been tamped down a bit for more of a crossover appeal that would bleed into the alternative metal world. While not bad in any way, THE BLACK FLUX does seem a bit like a retread without any new ideas added to the mix and despite the extras of violin, piano and slide guitar, they aren’t really that prevalent in the mix. For Voivod fans and those who want to hear a more mainstream approach to the Ved Buens Ende style then this will enthrall your eardrums for sure as its an excellent album but doesn’t quite seem to engage in the variations that made the debut so exciting and unique.
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UMUR wrote:
17 days ago
I have to be in a certain mood to listen to Virus, but when my mood is right and I put on their music, dark magic happens...
siLLy puPPy wrote:
17 days ago
Actually, it's all kind of odd! My only gripe is that starting with this album they are becoming TOO Voivod-ish but it's certainly a dark and unnerving album
UMUR wrote:
17 days ago
"As Virulent as You", is probably one of my favorite songs...majestic, dark, and otherworldly odd. I love it.

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