By Kyle Harcott
It’s amazing when you take a blind chance on an album, only to have it lovingly rip your head off. This is exactly what happened to me with Virion, the second self-released album by Plainville, Kansas artist Brandon Duncan, who records under the nom de guerre of The Sequence of Prime. I stumbled across his website on the recommendation of another metal writer, and upon several listens, I can tell you Virion is without a doubt one of the most original, incredible, and downright vitriolic records I have heard in a very long time.
Fill a Yahtzee cup with dice comprised of black-tar hate-sludge, incite-to-riot industrial, a bit of double-bass-heavy thrash, mebbe a tinge of blackmetal – shake virulently, and you might come close to approximating the desperate, foaming-at-the-mouth rage of Virion. A concept album based on a viral particle’s pandemic effects upon everything it infects in its path, from one person to a species to the entire planet. Severely frightening, both lyrically and musically, Virion is an intricate masterwork of fraught aggression; Brandon Duncan is the clear next-in-line to carry that pissed-off, white-hot torch lit by Steves Albini and Austin. The list of influences on his MySpace reads like a Honor Roll of stab-you-in-the-face-rock over the last thirty years.
“TRA-VEL-LING THROUGH SPACE AND TIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIME!” wrenches the first wretched wail from my speakers. The lead track, “Enlightenment”, is jarring enough to snap me to attention, because I haven’t heard anything this oh-please-god-help-me direful since my first listen to Temple of the Morning Star back in 1997. Everything sounds like some terror-stricken, all-too-late call to alarm – all white-knuckle frenetic, vicious and plaintive, but then, the song simply stops almost as soon as it starts. Track three, “Backlit”, is the standout here, with its battle-cry chorus, all-over-the-map –and to my sincere surprise programmed- drums, and more of that abominable, last-man-on-the-planet bawling; the song drags the listener across a scorched landscape of post-apocalypse Earth, not as some sort of altruistic warning but more as a foregone conclusion – and things only get worse from there. “Extremophile” chronicles the suffocation of the planet as seen from afar, a caustic paean to a supernova.
There is not a lot of hope to be found in Virion. You’re not left with that usual peaceful sense of everything’ll be alright by the end because it’s just not that kind of record. There’s a sense of helpless awe, perhaps even a smidge of malefic compliance, at what the forces of nature will undoubtedly someday reclaim from humanity’s excesses.
Ultimately, the listener should be left with a tremendous respect for Brandon Duncan and The Sequence of Prime, because this is one artist to keep an eye on. I have a feeling his records will only get better and better. The best review I can give of this overwhelming record is to tell you to take the same chance on it that I did. It may not be pretty, but it is a challenging, rewarding listen, and it’s available for free download at http://www.thesequenceofprime.com/ .