There is something aggressively unsettling--nay, terrifying--about fungi. And I'm not talking about the prospect of eating then, because here at the Village, we can get down with a variety of mushrooms (from a culinary perspective.) Nor am I referring to the one-bite wonders of the world, the Deathcaps and the Autumn Skullcaps and the Destroying Angels, of which the most delicate of bites brings, in many cases, coma or death. No. I'm talking about a vision of mycological apocalypse. The worldwide decomposition at the gaping maw of all-consuming saprophytic fungi--a form of fungus that gains its life-force through the gourmandization of decaying organic matter. As we die, the ultimate decomposer has its way with our remains...and so survives when all else finds inevitable demise. Given the sheer staying power of fungus, it all seems very possible, this eventual process of worldwide reverse fungi-cide. And, unlike zombies, said apocalypse has a concrete basis in biological reality. Scary shit, no matter how you slice it.
Philadelphia's Blood Spore take this concept even further, integrating a pseudo-mythical element to the horror of a world in which mushrooms have become an apex predator. In their words, their debut EP--ominously entitled Fungal Warfare Upon All Life--captures "the story of an ancient, immortal, conscious fungal underlord, hellbent on consuming all life that has spawned since its creation." Conceptually brilliant stuff, and, frankly, I’m a little astounded no other band (that we Villagers are aware of) has utilized this or similar topics. It seems so perfect, so lush, so ripe for exploration. And, lest ye think we’re focusing on the fungi because the music itself pales in comparison, know this: Blood Spore’s chosen conglomeration of blackened death and knuckle-dragging doom suits their thematic underpinnings like a glove, and their execution is pretty damn impeccable for such an untested outfit.
Sonically, Fungal Warfare Upon All Life checks all the boxes in the arena of primitive heavy music. The low end, for starters, is the true star of the show, maintaining a visceral consistency and a tangible heft. I’m generally quite happy if band puts effort into making sure their sound feels grounded, but the three tracks contained herein go far beyond. The weight and tone of the Christopher Emerson’s basswork keeps Blood Spore positively rooted, and that inclination allows the guitar to go to work without ever feeling disconnected from the brooding and malcontent atmosphere. Speaking to the guitar itself, Luke Gary brings both sludgy rhythmic riffage, and vibrantly seething leads. The latter are tar-pit dredged; the former are willing to explore beyond the well-beaten track. And lastly, the drums, while all-too-oft simply utilitarian, are an absolutely essential component of Blood Spore’s cavernous sound. It is to Fred Grabosky’s great credit that his contributions in the percussive department lend the entire affair an even more ominous edge. Stomping yet poignant and deliberate, this is the kind of prowess at the kit that so many purveyors of death doom simply lack.
And lwe haven’t even gotten to the vocals. Emerson’s filthy delivery here is positively ruthless. Like mycelium itself, his subterranean vox explores the nooks and crannies of each track with confident efficiency. The grizzled screams are abrasive, yet never sharp or shrill. Call them dread-inducing. Ominous to the core. At first blush, my inclination was that the vocals aren't far enough forward in the mix, but repeat listens reinforced the realization that they are, in fact, perfectly situated as they are.
And yet, despite my description of each sonic component as a separate element, Blood Spore has successfully created the illusion of a cohesive whole without distinct parts. The composition is quite intriguing in this regard--the progression and integration of different elements feels entirely natural. The slow-yet-uninterrupted march of the great decompser. Take the intro to (highlight track) "Cede To the Saprophyte" as a prime example of Blood Spore's songwriting chops. Via alternately limber and lumbering riffs, "Cede" provides the listener ample room to feel the weight of inevitably, yet never feels overwrought. Indeed, the only time this EP slows to a detrimental degree is on "Apex Colony," which feels like it has a little padding to trim in the midsection. As a result, the EP does feel longer than it's 23 minute runtime. A small quibble, in the grand scheme, but one that becomes more amplified once your get into full album lengths.
“Perversely mycolphilic” isn’t a descriptor I’m tempted to break out that often, but here we are. If Fungal Warfare Upon All Life is any indication of what Blood Spore have in store--and of course it is--we’re in for a delectable and deadly experience upon the fruition of their next effort. In the meantime, as we await extinction via the Saprophytic On High, this EP comes highly recommended!
Providing thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy, and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a groggy-eyed, highfalutin peasantry.