Wednesday 18 November 2020

Virus - Evilution Apocalypse (2020)

Country: UK
Style: Thrash Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 14 Aug 2020
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Oh hey, here's another blast from my past. I remember British thrash outfit Virus well from their first two albums and their Friday Rock Show session, though I never managed to catch them live. Somehow, I managed to miss a third LP in 1989 before the band split up a year later. They were on the rough side of thrash, with a dirty guitar sound, punky vocals and riffs that were designed for the pit. They played their thrash in high gear too and with surprisingly technical changes, so they reminded me of Nuclear Assault, an one of my favourite bands back then.

Well, it seems that Coke McFinlay, who was both the band's vocalist and lead guitarist, decided to try again in 2008, but struggled to keep a consistent line-up. This is the first new Virus studio album since 1989, though I see compilations and a couple of EPs, and given what's dominated the news this year, it seems highly appropriate for a welcome return of new Virus material. My initial thought is that Coke is picking up exactly where he left off.

These are fast thrash songs, with the band barrelling along with production thats just muddy enough to keep that old school punk feel. When they slow down to midpace, the riffs are good ones, with Rob Edwards working alongside McFinlay well. He's been with Virus since 2018 but Will Sheils on bass and Liam Hastie on drums are new fish this year. They've picked things up quickly, especially the latter, as recognisably Virus drums are more of a feel than a technique. It's not just about keeping the beat, it's also about keeping ahead of it. Virus drums are rarely slow, even when the rest of the band take it to a less vehement pace for a while.

Certainly this band seem to enjoy letting rip instrumentally. There are long stretches where McFinlay shuts his mouth and puts his guitar into serious action. I love these sections, such as the beginning of the title track, the end of Basement Conversion and much of Goat (Father, Scum, and Unholy). Perhaps it's these instrumental sections that led to my surprise.

That rougher, punkier edge led Virus to write shorter songs for the most part, not as a rule per se but just because that's how they came out. Here, everything's just a little longer, none of these ten songs clocking in at under four minutes and only two at under five. These songs are five minute songs or six minute songs, so they're hardly epics, but that's a notable change from the old days. It makes this the old Virus but a little more mature.

Well, sorta. If the cheeky wordplay obvious in titles like Goat (Father, Scum, and Unholy) and Multiple Wargasms isn't enough to highlight the humour at play throughout this album, let alone some of the lyrics, then surely Defective Detective has to. It isn't just a cover of the Inspector Gadget theme, because it's a whole song written from the perspective, I think, of the character's arch-villain, Doctor Claw, and, get this, it's the longest song on this album, but it's still a cover of the Inspector Gadget theme. Virus may be getting serious but they're still serious fun.

I've listened through this album a few times now and I'm still having a blast. I have a feeling that the lyrics to Thrashville explain its existence and the Cliff Notes version of that is that they miss that old school thrash feel so they decided to rekindle it. I'm behind that a thousand per cent and dearly hope that Virus get the opportunity to deliver this on stage and in future albums, taking over from COVID as the Virus to pay attention to.

This isn't the greatest album they'll ever release, not least because there are two songs here reworked from their 1988 album Force Recon, presumably as a bonus, but it's a good album nonetheless and I'm looking forward to the next one. It's not as good as the new Acid Reign, their first since 1990, but I think it's better than the Xentrix, their first since 1996. Now, who's going to come out of the woodwork next?

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