Originally formed almost 40 years ago, this Virus are the anarcho punk band from Dorset, and not to be confused with the UK thrash metal act of the same name. This is their sixth album, but the first as a three-piece, with bassist Jaz taking over the lion’s share of the vocals after their old frontman Dave left the band in 2019, so as you would expect there’s been a noticeable change in their sound, although thankfully not to the detriment of the band’s overall power.
If anything, Virus sound better than ever these days, the three of them tightening everything up and really drilling down on the song-writing, because there’s plenty of memorable choruses to be had here, and very little in the way of fillers. It might be their first album as a trio, but you’d never guess that from the confident understated performances.
Admittedly, ‘Spineless’ is a slightly under-whelming opener, but it’s upbeat and jaunty enough to command the attention, and then ‘The Bling Leading The Blind’ grabs you by the scruff of your neck with its jagged guitars and strident rhythm, the sombre melodic leads almost conjuring comparisons to The Wraith. The production is thick and powerful, Jaz’s syrupy bass tone gnarly enough to cut through the vibrant mix in fine Stranglers-like fashion.
The insistent pounding tempo of ‘Reclaim Reduce Recycle Reuse’ is reminiscent of the mighty Exit-Stance, whilst Jaz wears his love of The Damned proudly on his sleeve for the brilliant chorus of ‘Dark Secrets’, but the strongest song on offer is probably ‘Curfew Time’, which the band unbelievably wrote back in 1986 as their original line-up was falling apart – it honestly has one of the best hooks you’ll hear in a punk song this year.
Finally, closer ‘The Killing Line’ is incredibly poignant, examining the horror of the abattoir through stark minimalism, the whole track dripping with sincere, raw emotion. As does the whole album, to be fair, the band employing samples and strong lyrics to communicate their heart-felt message, but also bravely embracing their eclectic influences and taking their anarcho punk roots into new realms of tunefulness, really leaving all of themselves out there for the listener to dissect.
A minor criticism would be that some of the vocals follow the guitar and bass lines too simplistically, and so it feels like those few songs (they’re definitely in a minority) would have benefited from another few months of rehearsals to reach their maximum potential, but such quibbles pale in the shadow of the craftmanship applied to the other songs mentioned above. This is the most contagious Virus to date. Ian Glasper