It’s increasingly true to say that old Thrashers never die, in fact in many cases the bands that were around when the whole thrash scene kicked off are still going strong, in one form or another.
For the uninitiated, Virus were one of the forefathers of the UK Thrash Metal scene. The band disintegrated in the early 90s as Grunge became the new fashion and this style of music either went stadium-huge, or fell out of favour with very little middle ground. Unfortunately back then fans were more interested in spending their money on the latest Bay Area output than what was being produced in their own backyard.
Fast forward a decade and a bit, and the announcement that original main man Coke Finlay was assembling a new Virus lineup caused something of a stir among music fans of *cough* a certain age. Since the new lineup got together they have played a load of gigs to positive reviews, so when they were added to the Hammerfest lineup it was the perfect opportunity for us to get reacquainted.
Virus landed lucky with their stage times too, as they were on just as Skindred finished their headline slot on the main stage. This meant that they took to the second stage to a substantial and ever growing crowd. Looking around it was clear that although there were some of us there who remembered the band from the first time around the band’s recent gigs have won them a whole new generation of fans.
Of course there were also the usual “Skindred aren’t metal, I want METAL !!!!” kidz.
Well, you want Metal, you get Metal….
The band opened with Lunacy, a track from their 1989 album of the same name, and immediately set about showing exactly how “old school” thrash should be done. Coke Finlay dominates proceedings, and the new lineup he has assembled are no slouches either. Human Disposal Unit ratcheted things up a notch, and judging by the headbanging going on in the first couple of rows Virus were definitely hitting the spot.
God this took me back, mental headbanging, proper thrash metal and an atmosphere that was absolutely electric. By the time they got to the classic Testify To Me I decided it was time to get out of the photo pit and join the massed ranks on the other side of the barrier.
Because Virus can trace their DNA back to the early days of thrash they are an unusual beast in the modern UK scene, a band with originality. Unlike the majority of their competitors who are Slayer-like or Metallica-like, Virus sound like themselves. Old School is a massive cliche but Virus are, literally, Old School. It’s just not the same school that the anyone else went to. This was what festivals are supposed to be all about and just as Achren had blown away the late night cobwebs the previous evening, tonight it was Virus’ turn to give the crowd a massive shot of raw adrenaline.
In the end Virus were, frankly, fucking triumphant, but it was almost an entirely different story. Guitarist Scott was suffering after eating a dodgy hamburger earlier in the day and there was a real doubt about whether or not he could play. As it was he played the first part of the set sitting down in the finest Val Doonican style !! then, as Coke puts it, “the power of the kraken took over and he was up like a morning stiffy” 🙂
There were a load of Thrash bands on over the Hammerfest weekend but Virus were, for me, head and shoulders above the rest. The originality, the charging riffs, the energy and the aggression all combined to make Virus one of the bands of the weekend.
No Raped By Mutants though. Bugger.