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The Virus that should have spread. – 87%

hells_unicorn, September 8th, 2014
Written based on this version: 1988, 12″ vinyl, Metalworks

England’s late-bloomer thrash scene had often been the subject of dismissal due to their relatively short number of substantial and longstanding acts, as well as a far more limited impact on the development of the sound. While bands like D.A.M. and Xentrix did a fair job of reaffirming some of the latter 80s practices that had already become standard a couple years prior via the trailblazing works of Exodus and Megadeth, they never qualified as the sort of dangerous, grab you by the throat and decapitate you bare-handed character that typified the more extreme bands that were working their way out of Germany, Brazil, and a few select acts in the U.S. that were sticking more closely to the death metal-leaning character of Possessed and Slayer.

Force Recon, the sophomore effort of Brighton thrashers Virus, is an obscure exception to this general rule, and a refreshing one that gives credence to the same nation that had such a massive impact on punk, crust, and early heavy metal. Just a single glance at the ghoulish soldier sporting a stick with four or five impaled heads on it lends itself to something a bit more dangerous than a typical Metallica clone. Musically, their handiwork here bears a lot of similarity to the seminal works of Kreator, Sodom, Assassin, and Vendetta, thus hitting a fairly large spectrum of Teutonic bands that dabble in proto-death metal mayhem and punk-infused grooving goodness. Occasional nods to more extreme American acts like Dark Angel and Wehrmacht also pop in and out of this baby, along with some occasionally haunting acoustic work that wouldn’t be out of place on an 80s Sepultura release.

The area where this band really gets the job done is in the general songwriting department, though some mentions of the individual moving parts should also be made. Songs such as the epic “Hungry For Blood” and the slightly less massive but still long winded title song “Force Recon” and “Testify To Me” take a dual course of high-speed fury and mid-tempo crunch, opting for something more along the lines of Agent Orange and Leave Scars than the purely up tempo blitzkrieg of the earlier works of the bands in question. Vocalist Henry Heston has a fairly good gruff voice going for him here, sounding a bit like Petrozza at times, whereas at others listening closer to a vintage Lemmy Kilmeister brand of grit. The riff work is a tad bit on the primitive side and the guitar tone has a bit more of a modest crunch in line with early Nuclear Assault, but the combined efforts of the whole arrangement results in something that is still quite ferocious even by 1988 standards.

There are some bands that just don’t seem to quite make their mark due to either genre saturation or coming in just a tad too late to completely standout, and these are the bands that are ripe for consideration by later generations. A lot of the younger bands out there today like Suicidal Angels and Bywar that have planted their flag on a Teutonic sound have ended up in a place that is extremely similar to where Force Recon ended up, and newcomers to the redder side of thrash will definitely want to give this album a listen. This is by far the most savage and musically substantial effort to come out of Virus’ short tenure at the tail end of the 80s, and arguably one of the most brutal things to come out of England that still stayed within the confines of thrash.

Obscure & Unsung – 85%

corviderrant, March 19th, 2010

This UK band was one that I stumbled upon in my used record store hunting days, and based on what I thought was some pretty gnarly cover art I picked it up for the heck of it. It ended up being a very pleasant surprise.

Let’s get to the reasons I didn’t give it a higher rating right off. First and most obviously, Terry Kaylor is a LOUSY drummer along the lines of Cryptic Slaughter’s Scott Peterson in that his time is totally out the window. Playing anything other than fast thrash beats, forget it, he can’t do it! How very Chris Witchhunter, too, now that I think of it. The fact that the drums are rather loud in the mix doesn’t help his cause, either, sadly, bringing his deficiencies into bright light. Said mix and production are as garage as it gets, too, with the drums threatening to drown out the guitars half the time. Though the bass is actually audible for once, and the riffs, when you can hear them, are pretty damn nice. Also, too, the band are far from tight in their delivery, sounding like they’re about to fall apart at the seams half the time.

So why did I give this the rating it has? Simple; the energy, enthusiasm and vibe this album creates really makes up for all that. You really get the feeling these boys are really giving it their all and throwing caution to the wind in delivering this album, and it still holds up well enough today due to this. The lack of pretense adds to its appeal in the long run, the lack of professional polish ultimately working to their advantage.

Henry Heston’s vocals are an angry snarl that sound like a punk vocalist doing his very best attempt at James Hetfield with a thick working class Brit accent, and his loutish yelling adds a lot to the appeal of this album. He didn’t sound like the Hetfield clones that were becoming prevalent by this time, which was/is a nice change. Coke MacFinlay’s guitar prowess is another saving grace as well, his sprawling melodic lead breaks commanding attention both in the mix and in the songs. The roared gang vocals radiate enthusiasm as well. “BURNING!!! SHOUTING!!! SCREAMING!!!! DY-IIIIINGGG!!!” is something you will find yourself hollering along with in no time flat!

Song wise, “Testify to Me” and “Viral Warfare” really stand out with their attempts at sophistication in their arrangements, and “B.S.S.D.” is a real corker as well that gets in, slugs you in the chops, then gets out before you know what hit you. “Release the Dead” is another roaring charge up the aisle to slaughter your warcaster before he stop the attempt on his or her life (sorry, Warmachine reference!), a frenzied blast of energy and aggression that segues into a killer circle pit/mosh part in the middle before it stomps on the gas again to flatten you. It ends on one of the baddest riffs I’d yet heard in my young life and short time as a headbanger at that time. By the time that riff faded out to herald Side One’s end, I was always a lot happier.

So, yeah, this is far from perfect. But it also shows that a healthy dose of punk attitude and aggression will help you skate by as long as your heart is totally into what you’re doing, and Virus certainly delivered in that realm. As mentioned, it was nice to hear a thrash band that was not trying to copy Metallica as blatantly as many Johnny-come latelys were at that time, and this is certainly worth checking out. If you can get past the trashy production and sloppy musicianship, this may well be your cup of Joe. Attitude and energy often can and do overcome polished professionalism, and “Force Recon” is good evidence as to how this works.


Another Forgotten Thrash Album – 86%

CHRISTI_NS_ANITY8, July 5th, 2008

These Virus could result unknown to the most of you and that was my case until few months ago I discovered this band and with them, the fact that they were a real small cult in the English panorama. England, back in the 80s, was a great container of metal bands. Right in England, grind was born and the symphonic black metal was known to everybody. Anyway, the thrash metal was always quite rooted in that country and Virus are here to prove it.

Even if the production is a bit unclean and low budget, the group’s energy is unbelievable. The drums are a bit too loud compared to the guitars and that’s a pity because, listening to them with attention, they are always inspired, brutal and fast. There is always a quite evident melodic component inside and the refrain to “Testify To Me” is an example. Even the solos are really melodic and obscure with a great end.

As always, the vocals are quite rough but not extreme. All in all, the classic thrash metal vocals, perfect to describe the scenarios of violence and devastation that are trademarks of the thrash lyrics. “Viral Warfare” shows great changes in the various sections, giving you the idea of completeness. It’s a 6 minute thrash metal song that begins in arpeggio style to continue increasing the speed and heaviness. There are always very good guitars duets in traditional metal but with the thrash distortion.

The solos are, I think, one of the most important characteristics in Virus’s sound. They are always melodic, sad or with a tragic hint. It’s very important to fill this sound with melody and catchiness. They are always inspired and never chaotic, showing, instead a great technique level and sense of fullness. The title track shows most impulsive parts on up tempo alternated to super heavy mid paced sections. Here the solos are definitely faster but always very good.

Some melody on the guitars on open chords riffs reminds me a bit the classic American speed metal of the 80s and, apart from being excellent to fill the sound with melody, that makes me so glad…I love speed metal. Anyway, the up tempo drums parts on “Release The Dead” could have been better because they are a bit imprecise and chaotic. It’s better when the band is on structured mid tempo and the dramatic, obscure “No Return” proved it once again. “B.S.S.D.” is the most impulsive and violent track of the album with hyper fast drums and solos.

To end this album we find “Hungry For Blood”. It’s again a truly fast song. Here the drums parts are played better in style and precision, but they always conserve that sense of primordial heaviness and anger. The riffs flow continually on a field of devastating beats. The theme song of “The Munsters” show, unfortunately, is unknown to me and I can’t really appreciate the cover. Anyway it’s good and fun, perfect to close a good album of pure thrash metal.

Hungry For Thrash – 91%

FrayedEndsOfSanity39, December 27th, 2004 

Virus – Force Recon is classic, fun, violent thrash. Instead of giving a general summary, I figured I’d give a track by track review of the release. Force Recon begins with an astounding riff on Testify To Me. Virus’ style is gritty and hyper-fast thrash. Henry Heston’s vocals aren’t great, but they don’t have to be, it’s metal and it still sounds good. The solos out do the various choruses. Cokie and Heston are masters at the guitar.

What does Virus love more than Viral Warfare? This instrumental track has a vicious riff. Listen to it and your adrenaline level will surely rise. A riff like this might even have Dani Filth producing testosterone. Okay, getting back on topic. Force Recon, itself, has a killer riff. Prime head banging material, but the chorus is just average. McFinlay performs a great solo, playing the scale and everything else like a madman.

Track four of Force Recon presents Release The Dead. There is a melody to this song, but it’s gritty thrash. It seems as if the guitar and percussion drown out the vocals a bit. It’s either a recording deficiency or Heston’s vocals aren’t strong enough. His accent goes well with the music, and you hear him clearly when he shouts “Release The Dead, Possess The Living!” It’s a sweet chorus, simple but gnarly.

No Return is all instrumental for the first minute. The vocals are stronger on this track, very violent and true to thrash. BSSD is another violent song, not satanic or anything, just pure violence. Hungry for Blood keeps up the aggressive pace, good solos on behalf of Coke. The last track, untitled, or Mosh is an instrumental when you exclude the shouting of Mosh. I believe it’s a heavy cover of some 80s show, maybe the Adams Family, I can’t remember the details. Either way it’s a great song. The riffs are deafening yet catchy. It’s something I’d like to find the tabs too.

A unique thing about this album is how much instrumental there is. McFinlay and Heston are quite apt with the guitar, talented indeed. The percussion and bass are capable too, extremely fast. The riffs and solos are top caliber but it’s the chorus which are lacking. It’s the missing link. Yet this album is great in its entirety. It beats pretty much anything put out nowadays. If you’re lucky enough to come across Force Recon, and you’re a fan of bands like Wehrmacht, Rigor Mortis, Sacrament, Kreator, etc. buy it, you shouldn’t be disappointed. Virus – Force Recon, gritty gnarly thrash from the late 80s. Grade A Metal.

Virus Warning Strip