Rest easy: The fiendish pranksters in Norway’s Virus continue to sound like nobody else but themselves on this bits-‘n-pieces EP collection. Oblivion Clock features four new songs, one track from the sessions for Virus’s debut album Carheart, and the two songs from a 7” that came with the special edition of the (seriously excellent) 2011 full-length The Agent That Shapes The Desert. Despite the variegated provenance of these seven songs, Oblivion Clock’s thirty-odd minutes play like a self-contained outpouring of the band’s singular essence.
The name of Virus’s game, as always, is a ghoulish, winking type of avant-garde rock that dips its toes in the outré barely-black-ness of Ved Buens Ende. Guitars rattle off spindly post-punk figures while a sea of rhythms undulates woozily, and Czral’s dour, affected croon steers the whole ship from (or is that toward?) fell shores, but always with the implicit affirmation that yes, it’s okay for this music to be fun.
The opening title track is a gloomy waltz, while “Inverted Escape” sounds possibly feverish in comparison, tumbling out of the gate into one of the speediest tempos this band has ever used. The Carheart leftover “Saturday Night Virus” is clearly affiliated with the band’s earlier wackiness, indulging in a bouncy disco beat and altogether more extroverted strangeness. Two of the highlights of Oblivion Clock, however, are the Walker Brothers cover “Shutout,” which folds in a warped, almost surf-rock guitar solo, and the instrumental outro “Gaslight Exit,” which makes compelling use of odd percussive effects and other sampled creepiness to leave no doubt in the listener’s mind that the titular oblivion clock is at last tolling that final burden.
Throughout Oblivion Clock, Virus sounds like a house band playing in one of the finer ballrooms in Hell. The band has such a unique sound that it’s a bit sour to fault them for simply digging in and exploring every last vertex of this sound. Still, once you notice than an integral part of the band’s sound is a near-constant reliance on tinkering with ¾ time, some small portion of the magic is dispelled. Nevertheless, Oblivion Clock is yet another glowing reminder of the power of identity: Once you’ve got one, you don’t let it go.