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Virus has always been a rather undeprictable proposition and ‘Oblivion Clock’ is no different, bringing minimal and concentrated playing, the one the band is precicely known for, into its maximum, further experimental status. A frantic, agonizing look into the history of Virus featuring songs from every period of the band, even before. Some songs are completely new, some of them are old but took their final form for this album, it’s like an evolution map but contemporary, a spanning of each Virus session plus more.
‘Oblivion Clock’ is as hypnotic and mesmerizing as the rest of Virus’ music with Czral’s low and trembling operatic croon calling you into familiar fields. The music is mostly up-tempo and driven but dark and dissonant with passages that twist and turn into the mind, a pleasant antithesis. ‘The Pull of the Crater’ is one of the most eerie tracks of the album, the numerous guitar layers used, offer greatly to its essence, even small unoticeable parts or atmospheric sounds are enough to find a way into the human psyche, like venturing into a circular, spinning condition under the earth's surface, a condition of an ongoing, spiral crawling as one waits for that exit light to come closer, or should I say the ‘Gaslight Exit’, which is the kind of feeling you get from the song as well. One thing that should not remain unnoticed is Oblivion Clock’s short duration which is also a plus. Of course this record needs multiple listens in order to grow on you, a fact quite known with Virus, but the immediacy here is more present than ever. ‘Saturday Night Virus' is playful and memorable, with the bonus, hitherto unreleased Walker Brothers cover of the ‘Shutout’ being in the same vein. One striking characteristic that can be found in most of Virus’ music is the anxiety attacks, those musical labyrinths, they manage to create from the way their music sounds to how they uniquely craft their claustrophobic, fluidised opuses.
‘Oblivion Clock’ features the undisclosed novelty of Virus, not exactly the same but still highly interesting, a weird approach of discordant rhythmic structures and vocalizations, orotund and distant. This album is nothing else but a deeper exploration of Virus’ continuing evolution, an inner look to the surreal edge of metal’s avant-garde.
There's nothing much that I can say about this pleasant late 2012 surprise from dissonant lovelies Virus, especially since I'm focusing on the 5 new tracks, disregarding the Walker Brothers cover and Seen In The Sediments, which was a bonus track on some editions of their previous full-length, The Agent That Shapes The Desert. Out of those five new tracks, one is a leftover from the Carheart sessions and at least one of the other four is partially taken or reconstructed from the aborted 2006 Ved Buens Ende.... sessions, from which only a rare-as-fuck demo resulted and which was the basis for a number of songs and songtitles from The Black Flux (my money's on Inverted Escape, given the name of a track from said sessions called Inward Escape which also calls to mind The Black Flux's Inward Bound). What we have here, then, is a batch of new songs that aren't exactly new nor old. Disregarding the two tracks I first mentioned, these five songs are indeed a welcome gift to the average fan and they're thoroughly enjoyable as a result. My only gripe, as entitled as it might be, is that the inevitable conclusion of such an EP is that dreadful aftertaste of incompleteness, that hunger for more. Surely I can't really complain, since it's the shortest amount of time we've had between batches of new material from this band, but as I said, it's just entitled aftertastes that should be disregarded.
Over the course of their existence Virus became ever increasingly more complex and at the same time bare. The dissonance and complexity of the riffs, chords and arrangements has increased at a regular rate, as have the darker themes and doomier tempos. Nowhere is this more obvious than on the four properly new tracks. Far gone, in these new offerings, is the campy, rocky feel of Carheart. If anything, the thick and complex sounds of Black Flux converge here with the fine and skeletal mastery of dissonance presented in The Agent, to create something of a bridge between the two, while adding a modest number of new flavours, mainly in the shape of the sheer aggressiveness and speed of Inverted Escape, which presents what might be the fastest pace the band has had since the Carheart days but with a level of complexity towards which said album only managed to hint. This is the highlight of the EP, for sure. Ascending and descending dissonant arpeggios mixed with the strangest alternative to power chords I've heard this side of Fred Frith or Derek Bailey and a drummer finding himself plowing through a song with an energy that borders on black metal of yore. Otherwise, mid-to-slow tempos dominate the release.
The other interesting tidbit within this album is Saturday Night Virus. As the campy title might suggest, this is a leftover from the Carheart sessions, and it shows. Disco patterns are back with a vengeance while the lyrics and vocals are driven by surreal mockery. The riffing is more hard hitting but not nearly as complex and fluent as their latter work would prove to be. Still, it's endearing and even heartwarming in a nostalgic sense. It also doubles as compelling evidence that Virus was born out of some unholy union between Voivod's Nothingface and Public Image Limited's Second Edition (better known as Metal Box) nurtured to adulthood by a retired Ved Buens Ende.....
Perhaps I'm throwing more words at this shortest of releases than it's actually worth it, but I'm a firm believer that Czral & Co. can do no wrong, and that everything they release is at the very least worthy of words of dedication and praise. Here's to a healthy future for the band and to the hopes that their constant evolution won't stop any time soon.