Everybody, welcome to a unique event in the world of dark music, as Czral the man with dancing hands comes back from the tomb to disharmonize grooves and to unbend spiky sputniks. So many things have been said regarding this already-cult-before-having-been-released album, so I think that if we frankly want to understand its value by sticking to its true content, its time for us to ignore every one else’s opinions, even our very own, and simply go with the flow of the black flux. Thank you for following me along the way!
To make things clear from the start: this is not Carheart part II, and to be honest, not much from that album has made its way into the new Virus album, except for the singular guitar signatures and bass acrobatics. One major difference is that the music is much darker than before, in that it doesn’t use absurd and surreal themes to bring a befuddled smile on your face, but even more so to spring free a somewhat vague feeling of discomfort, of unease, of malaise, all brought through self-contemplation. Of course, this doesn’t mean that it’s basically unpleasant music, far from it actually! Already within Stalkers of the Drift’s first notes, you easily recognize the spiralling figures of the past, and how well-done and perfectly fluid the grooves are constructed around them. Yet both the song’s content and form sound less upbeat and more fog-atmospheric than Carheat. Its final section, in particular, gets particularly powerful and evoking, as subtle piano drops render the hard-hitting post Metal groove something of a stellar abandon.
Back to the basics, As Virulent as You starts out as some sort of strange ballad displaying its beauty under the open skies, but as soon as the main theme abruptly takes the lead, we’re in for something special, to say the least. Its one of those long riffing patterns that only Czral could come up with, as swirling, whirling, curling out as it is. Plenum’s bass lines are all over the place, adding shadowy notes in between the guitar’s few empty spaces, then making obvious what the song’s atmosphere was secretly being suggestive of. What’s more out there is that drummer Einz keeps it so simple behind his drum kit that even that sort of eccentricity turns out to be viciously catchy after all. For most of the album’s duration, this is mostly his shock tactics, that is to use rythmic simplicity in such a way that the bass and guitars weirdness comes out sounding much more in your face than they would have appeared otherwise. The album-titled fifth song follows this rule, and isn’t afraid to go for a 4/4 club beat meets Voïvoid meets strange pop vocal sensibility meets disco funk bass slapsticks, until the ending section torns your heart apart as its supra-emotive power overwhelms every instrument. This honestly is a headphone album, because of the great production details: you’ll never stop discovering new sound facets.
One has to face the fact that Czral has also opened up his throat’s larynx voicebox, only for the better: his range of performances are more varied than before, and as a result of that, every part of every song has its own special atmosphere. That the lyrics have been included indeed allows most of us to actually grasp Virus’ mysteriously poetic undertones, but it doesn’t mean that all the mystery is now gone. Quite the contrary! Half the album behind, B9 buzzes out of his prehistorical caves. Okay, the Origami Galaktika interlude contains sub-bass frequencies made for those late-night headphones caresses, but it’s a bit too short for me to fully enjoy it, as ambient music takes more time than three minutes to evolve towards a climax. Not that it’s unnecessary, far from me to be claiming that, but its Ocean Highway title promised more than an interlude, and while its just that, it obviously could have been an aquatic, oceanic exploration of the flux theme which is central to the album. Whatever, its main function, I think, is to lead the listener to the next song, one of my favorite. Remember Ved Buens Ende’s Coiled in Wings superb introductary riff? Remember Carheart’s Roadtimeless erotic dissonance? If you enjoy both, then Inward Bound might hold a special spot in your heart. It is so poetic in its use of dark post rock and surreal crooning poetry that I’m wordless as to how to explain its effect upon me.
Lost Peacocks shifts from one version of a riff to another, and builds variations on a theme with so much ease that it’s somehow hard to notice the similarities between much of the different parts. By then you really know that as a songwriter, Czral has mastered his art. And finally, out of the blue, classic-epic film noir disharmony rocking Strange Calm, a 15 years old song in many aspects, hits your soul’s bottom. Playing with emotional ambivalence all the way through, it summons up feelings of being lost, of getting trapped into the loathing image of who you think you are, of struggling bipolar anxiety vs. self-realization, but also of wonders and utter fascination. To me it was like going back to 1995-era dark soulful black rock, and especially the closing three minutes, the album’s ideal ending descent into the buzzing black flux, are truly magickal, as once again the piano drops get back in front of a massive slow-moving groove dirge. Overall, if we take this new Virus album as a whole, it sounds like something happened not in Belgium (as many fans had previously thought so), but within Czral’s mind after his accident. You may talk of a shift in musical attitude, but whatever, The Black Flux is a mighty vision, something out of this world with both feet planted at the roots of a San Pedro cactus. A very concise and strict exercise in surreal looseness. You haven’t heard this specific brand of music before; neither will you hear it anywhere else in the world.
01 – Stalkers of the Drift