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This is a very demanding piece of work. It took me countless spins to really absorb it and be able to make an opinion of it. The first few times, it seemed like just a blur. 'The Black Flux' went by without a notice, but it seemed like it lasted a lifetime. It's a wall of avant-garde noise and improvisation that would impose a pounding headache on a rock. This insane range and exceptional song structure could've made for a historic artwork in the right hands. It takes a genius mind to create something truly outstanding and unique these days, but we still strive for that goal (at least some of us). Most of them fail, but a very few select succeed at creating an avant-garde milestone that everyone else in the genre will forever be comparing themselves to.
Then there are those who just try too hard, and get lost on the way. I believe Virus are one of those. There is absolutely no context what so ever on this album, it's just an incoherent mix of instruments. Are they trying to sound weird just for the sake of weird, or were they actually trying to achieve something? The few moments that sound somewhat structured, become so repetative and annoying, that I was at many times tempted to rip the CD out of the stereo and break it to pieces.
There are so many bands who misinterpret the avant-garde genre and its use. It's not a contest of making the most fucked up, unlistenable pandemonium. This genre is the most demanding, both for musician and audience. It's a perfect blend of improvisation, focus, timing and atmosphere. There is no rules, but you still need something that appeals to the listener. A good vocalist has often saved bands from certain doom, but Czral's voice is like the tip of the iceberg. I might have just let this album go and never cared about it again, but the "singing" just gave it an extra dimension of shittyness. While the riffs and percussion are frantic and constantly shifting, Czral's noisehole is monotone and as appealing as an airstrike alarm.
I can't choose any stand-out tracks here, because they sound all the same. Even though there is a very wide range of strange and unusual frets plucked, there is no form of recognizable melodies. I like being challenged, but only if there is a reward at the end. After 15 repeats or so, it still sounds like shit. All I'm left with is a horrible headache, disappointment, and five hours of my life I can never get back. That's my opinion. I guess, if you're openminded enough, you might enjoy this, but I just didn't ever get to that point. Norway has always been a rich culture of exciting, extreme metal. I just hope this album won't be a part of that legacy.
Born of his previous project Ved Buens Ende, this is the latest vehicle for the unique and complex musical perspective of Carl-Michael Eide (i.e. Czral). Carheart was a fascinating debut, surely, yet The Black Flux takes this haunted aural vision to new levels of desolation and rapture.
The sound of Virus has been compared to Voivod, and while I can hear some similarity in the bass groove and discordant riffing akin to Nothingface, I think that's only a starting point. The haunting vocals of Eide truly set it apart from almost anything else. Menacing and beautiful at the same time, like a Norse Nick Cave channeling Barrett or Gilmour. The musicianship is likewise phenomenal, the jangling, swerving guitars paint bizarre, dissonant landscapes which compel me to hike them repeatedly. The bass playing and drums are the perfect compliment, and the trio has a wonderful harmony (dating from their time together in Ved Buens Ende.)
Highlights are many, the bass walk below the jarring chords of the title track, perhaps. The amazing riffing of "Shame Eclipse" or "As Virulent As You". The playful journey that is "Lost Peacocks", or the dense and disturbing "Archives". I don't think it's a perfect album, but that potential is still here to earn, as I am simply not yet worthy of comprehending all its grace. For the time being, let's say that Virus have entered the upper echelon of trend-setters to emanate from the Norse metal cosmos, alongside Ulver and Arcturus. If you seek a compelling, complex and different album, read no further, go order the CD.
Remember how hard your dick got when Ved Buens Ende announced a reunion? Remember how quickly you turned flaccid when it ended up falling apart? Well, fortunately some of the songs written by Czral & Co. for that were used instead on Virus' 2nd album, along with several more songs written in the wake of the debut Carheart . The result is an album that stands alone at the top of a very strong batch of progressive rock/metal releases in 2008.
An album as deeply rooted, if not more so, in jazz and art-punk as in metal, The Black Flux shows the trio exploring a more focused and refined sound, which is a logical evolution from Carheart, while setting themselves even further apart from their black metal origins. In the simplest of terms, Virus’ sound can be described as blending the oft-dissonant, space-rock-tinged riffing of Nothingface-era Voivod with the bass-driven grooves of bands like The Birthday Part and NoMeansNo. But in reality, their sound is much deeper than that.
The guitar work of Carl-Michael ‘Czral’ Eide, a veteran of the Norwegian post-black-metal scene, is the biggest draw here. Czral has developed a style that makes extensive use of dissonant alternate picking, jazzy chord progressions and chromatic open-string arpeggios to concoct riffage that cascades with texture and ambience. There’s not another guitarist in metal right now to whom this style can be directly compared. Perhaps the mellower segments of recent Deathspell Omega releases, and Gorguts’ From Wisdom To Hate are reasonable reference points, but Eide’s compositions place far more emphasis on groove and progress much more naturally. When compared with those of Carheart, both the individual riffs and arrangements on this album are significantly more complex and refined, with the exception of the poppy, bass-driven “Archives” and the mellow and dreary “Inward Bound”. If I had to choose superlatives, I would say that the final three tracks on the album feature the most exotic and involving riffs, with “Strange Calm” being straight up epic.
The bass work is another element that makes The Black Flux so special. Whereas most metal bands simply use bass largely to fill out the lower register in their sound and occasionally bleed through when the guitars momentarily halt to ease an otherwise awkward transition between riffs, Virus places special emphasis on the interplay between guitar and bass, with Petter ‘Plenum’ Berntsen’s instrument frequently assuming a role much more akin to that of a jazz bass. In “Archives”, for instance, Plenum plays a rather complex groove throughout the main verse section of the song while Czral overlays it with the repetition of a single ringing arpeggiated chord [I believe it’s an Em7M, but I can’t play by ear, so don’t hold me to it]. In other parts of the album [most notably “Lost Peacocks”] the bass assumes a role more akin to that of a lead guitar, playing melodies independent of the guitar. If you’re someone who really appreciates a band finding creative uses for an instrument that often gets lost in the mix [literally], you’d be well-advised to check out The Black Flux.
The one potential deal-breaker here is Czral’s singing, which resembles Kristoffer ‘Garm/Trixter G’ Rygg with a residual heroin buzz. It’s a pretty achromatic baritone, which seems to grate on a lot of people. Personally, I couldn’t think of a more fitting vocal accompaniment to the music here. True, there are a number of other vocalists [most notably Cornelius from Solefald] who could’ve possibly done a better job with these patterns [I don’t say Garm because, referring back to “Queen of the High Ace” from Carheart on which he sang, the difference was really pretty negligible] but it’s hardly fair to dock a band for not having a superlative vocalist when the one on hand accompanies the music on the album perfectly well.
As it stands, The Black Flux is a unique and thoroughly enjoyable album with only very minor flaws [“Intermission: The Ocean Highway” doesn’t really need to be there, much less 3½ minutes long, while “Shame Eclipse” feels like it fades out a little too soon]. This is a definite must-own for fans of Ved Buens Ende in particular, and forward-thinking, genre-defying music with ample atmosphere in general.
While most of these songs, at least partially, are (or should be) well known by people who enjoy Ved Buens Ende...., since they released some of them as a demo rehersal back in 2006, they are now reborn and niptucked under this new release from weird rock/metal band Virus. And well, I have to admit that while I enjoyed this throughoutly, I kinda expected more from them, judging by their fabulous debut and what I listened in the previously mentioned demo. I especially wish they would have reused the untitled track from that rehersal, which was by far my favourite. But anyways onto the music itself shall we.
Well anyone that has listened to this band's debut isn't going to be very surprised while listening to this album. The style is basically the same, only this time the band sounds more relaxed and at the same time more focused on making great music in their own style rather than trying to define that style, which seems to be what the first album is about (other than, well, having fun). The bass is still a very important and prominent part of the music, taking the front place, right along with the guitar, seeming to blend with eachother from time to time. The drumming in this album takes it slow most of the time, only limiting itself to the chore of keeping the rythm and laying down on jazzy showoffs. I myself would like to listen to more of these jazzy showoffs but hey who am I to tell this guy how to do his job.
So while this album is a clear continuation of the previous album, it seems to bring some changes to the pace and overall feeling of the music. While the first album seemed more "happy" and "fun", this one invokes a slightly darker feeling (as dark as a band which has written "cars and dogs" as their "lyrical themes" can be), and that seems to point towards an evolution for the band, some could say they have "matured" and some could say they've gotten even more insane. Whatever it is that's going through these guys' heads, they still have the skills and mind to come up with wonderful and unique music. And this album surely is a testament of that.