Written by Swatty
Mycelium – Scream Bloody Spore
Old school death metal from Glasgow, Scotland
Released September 1st, 2021
via Iron, Blood and Death Corporation
Death metal since its inception has found great comfort in exploring themes like violence, gore, murder and of course, decomposition. The main actor in these anti-human narratives has most often been man or nature with a heavy focus on the former. While human-created violence is disturbing enough by itself, there are plenty of other subjects in nature right outside our window which are not only equally horrifying, but perhaps even more severe in its detachment from morality. This ecosystem which we reign over by some random chance through evolutionary fortune has many dark and terrifying layers. Take for instance the seemingly innocent mushroom: not only is it one of the most polarizing faux-vegetables but by its very nature it subsists and thrives on decomposition. Honestly folks, that’s peak death metal territory right there and Scotland’s Mycelium are mining this bountiful untapped vein with aplomb.
Mycelium are a new entrant in the saturated OSDM scene although its creator and sole performer Greg Edwards had been doing atmospheric black metal as Necronoclast from 2004 through 2012. However with his debut opus under this new moniker his attention is clearly focused on creating a chunky OSDM beast with Scream Bloody Spore in a brief but economical 31 minutes. The songwriting no doubt plays an homage to the masters of the 90s as is evidenced by the album title which gives Evil Chuck a respectful nod. This translates into loose and chunky yet unrelenting riffing and murky percussion that sounds similar to a drum set that is balanced on loose dirt.
It is this pronounced rich black soil vibe that really makes Mycelium stand out from the crowd. I suppose the context of being associated with all things mushroom-related helps to achieve this catharsis on the part of the listener but the riffs certainly draw you in too. Take for instance the infectious beginning of “Virosa” that starts off with a blastbeat and a singular minor riff before settling into a paced but no less frantic riff that shows the band means business and fungi should be taken very seriously friends.
It should also be mentioned that this taut pacing persists throughout the entirety of the record creating a trepidatious atmosphere to get lost in. The warm analog-sounding production also massively contributes to the proceedings, easily pulling the listener into the kind of misty forest ambience Mycelium is trying to convey. There is a kind of synesthesia to the complete sound, though the color palette is limited to browns and greys. It is clear that the heart of this sepia kaleidoscope comes from the rotting forest floor where many of these lovely saprophytes thrive.
As for the actual riffing, it is fat, chunky and menacing. Stylistically I would say it falls somewhere between the goregrind days of Carcass and early Grave. There is just enough sloppiness here in all the instruments that pull the vibe closer to those two bands, especially in the percussion as most of the songs end on a bang of the cymbal allowing it to ring out “naturally” in the studio (I use quotes because the drums are programmed here). This kind of signature ending adds an unexpected charm to each song.
Lyrically Mycelium are clearly having a lot of fun by going full Carcass with the song titles but with a fungal theme instead. For the sake of saving the reader some work, I’ll attempt to briefly explain the key words in each one as understanding the meaning lends a much needed context to the songs.
Virosa – this refers to a variety or poisonous white cap mushrooms like the death cap
Mycorrhiza – a mycorrhiza is a fungus that grows symbiotically or pathogenically with the roots of a plant
Entomopathogen – a type of fungus that infects and lives in insects, mites and ticks.
Impudicus – a phallus shaped fungus with a foul odor
Guttation – droplets of fungal sap that form on the surface
Hypomyces – a parasitic fungus that cannibalizes other mushrooms
Deliquescence – a process of liquefaction in which a mushroom digests itself with its own enzymes
Stipe – the stem that supports the cap of the mushroom. Also a founder of R.E.M.
Marginata– a type of fungus that digests organic matter like wood.
While the music itself isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel when it comes to the riffcraft, it is the entire package that creates a unique and special entity in the current deluge of OSDM acts out there. While man as the monster is a tried and true trope, Mycelium effectively demonstrate that nature is scarier and even more remorseless. Remember to respect the forest and the resilient and malicious mushroom, and if you like your riffs with dirt and bits of rotted leaves under your fingernails, then submit yourself to be devoured by the ravenous hypomyces.
Favorite Track: Marginata