Aug 222011

A Facebook friend of mine, a talented metal guitarist and songwriter with eclectic musical tastes (The Binary Code’s Jesse Zuretti), posted a comment last night about a song from a Norwegian band called Virus that caught my eye. He wrote: “Check this band out if you like David Bowie, Black Metal, East of the Wall, and GROOVE. Some of the best lyrics I’ve read in years.” Really now, how could I resist?

The song that was the subject of that FB post is the title track to the band’s 2011 album (their third), The Agent That Shapes the Desert. The band itself is largely the brainchild of a guitarist and vocalist named Carl-Michael Eide (“Czral”), who at times past has been a part of bands such as Ulver, Satyricon, Ved Buens Ende, and Nattefrost, with collaboration from a very talented drummer named Einar Sjursø (“Einz”), and on this album, a terrific bassist who calls himself Bjeima.

Since listening to the song (plus a couple of others), I’ve done some reading and seen descriptions that refer to desert-rock and Voivod, but I’m not sure what desert rock is and the Voivod comparison is certainly an imperfect one. I prefer Jesse’s description, though personally I’d substitute David Byrne of The Talking Heads for David Bowie. And yes, the odd, sometimes campy-sounding clean vocals do take some getting used to, but the music is fascinating. It’s definitely avant-garde, with segments of jazz-style bass and drum instrumentals and other-worldly guitars that have to be heard to be believed. But yes again, it does include some massively irresistible grooves.

It’s also heavy enough to qualify as metal in my book, and I’m categorizing it as an Exception to the Rule around here, not because of the clean vocals but despite them (though I confess they’re growing on me). And finally, I also agree with Jesse that the lyrics are way cool. In fact, after the jump I’ve set them out right after the song. Check this out. You won’t hear anything else like it today, or possibly for the rest of the year. That may or may not be a compliment. You decide.

“The Agent That Shapes The Desert”:

[audio:|titles=Virus – The Agent that Shapes the Desert]

The agent that shapes the desert,
you’re a well of dense fluids

From the basin of time, you have derived
from the lakes you’ve left behind

The boundless celestial season
drags the sands of time

In between your flecks of sparks,
a constellation of departed stars

A day in the life of the agent
One blink of the eye, pre-creation

From the catacombs where our dead rivers run
the constant red glows bright

A thousand arms point to the sun,
the sky picked clean and white

Into the bestial season,
the angry animals are all in sight

Just fiercely rotating, roaring
in between their specks of light

A day in the life of the agent
One blink of the eye, pre-creation

Analyzing eyes howl,
you watch the ashes engulf the sky

Known pulses hits the air,
behind a veil, your breath, you sneer

The radiant tunnels stashed,
now grasp the atmosphere

Washed away towards the tides,
and chased down towards the spine

Still here? If you didn’t scowl and bolt away like a skittish colt, it may be because, like me, you found yourself getting into this music. And if you did, you’ll probably want to do what I did — hear one more song. So, here’s the next one I heard:

[audio:|titles=Virus – Continental Drift]

Now, if you’re intrigued enough by these two songs that you’d like to hear even more, all the tracks from the album are available on YouTube at this channel, and the album itself is available from Amazon mp3 and iTunes. The lyrics to all the songs are posted here.


  1. Wow, It’s so cool that we’re covering VIRUS!

    Some background – Virus used to be a black metal band called Ved Buens Ende; they did a single record called “Written in Waters” in… 1996, i think? Anyway it’s considered a LANDMARK avant-garde metal record–one of the first openly avant garde metal records ever.

    their style is very quirky, but awesome. If you like this listen to FLEURETY and SOLEFALD

  2. These guys were DIFFICULT listening in London with Ulver. And I don’t mean that in a bad way, just that it’s definitely music you have to put effort into, rather than jsut absorb passively.

  3. I think the Voivod comparison is pretty apt, actually, at least with respect to their earlier work (I pretty much lost interest when Snake went on hiatus). Musically, especially, this makes me think of Nothingface. I’m not saying it sounds the same, just that it has a similar feel, if that makes any sense.

    • It does make sense, and I do get the comparison to Nothingface. It’s probably the closest comparison I can think of, though I readily admit that I’m not a very well educated listener when it comes to this kind of music — whatever it should be called.

  4. i love this band! it takes a certain mood to listen to it, but it’s nothing short of excellent. the vocalist reminds me most of nils from sleepytime gorilla museum.

  5. Hmmm….

    I didn’t like the layered vocals in “The Agent That Shapes the Desert”. At all. Killed the mood for me and the music – though rather good – wasn’t enough. I wouldn’t mind this in certain places, but since nearly all the vocals in this one sound like this (‘analyzing eyes howl’ being the exception), I can’t really get into this, as much as I want to.

    “Continental Drift” was a much better listen because of the vocals. I can hear a second voice, but it’s in the background instead of up front at the same time. Now, if the vocals that were like this on that first track, I’d have had no problem with it whatsoever.

    • I preferred the vocals on the second song, too, but in part because they were more baritone. I haven’t yet listened to the rest of the album, so I can’t give a clue as to what the vocals are like on the rest of the album. I do really like the instrumental music on these two songs, and the lyrics. The vocals are a challenge.

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