Italian formation Fungus was born in 2002, in Genova, as an evolution of an improvisation project of heavy psychedelic jamming by guitarist Alejandro J Blissett and bass player Carlo 'Zerothehero' Barreca. In 2004 Fungus released its first official album entitled Careful (Mellow Records) with an extended line-up featuring keyboard player Claudio Ferreri and drummer Stefano Firpo, alongside Alejandro and Carlo. In the same year Dorian Deminstrel entered the band as vocalist and acoustic guitarist. In 2006 this new formation released the promo EP 25 Grams on which an electric, vintage rock with progressive tendencies started to show. In 2010 Fungus released its second album entitled Better Than Jesus, an album with strong hints from The Doors (Jim Morrrison-like vocals) and Pink Floyd (psychedelia) and loaded with the distinctive sound of the Hammond organ. In the same year Cajo replaces Stefano Firpo as the drummer. Then Fungus released the second chapter of the trilogy in 2013: The Face Of Evil (see review), first on CD but one year later it becomes a double vinyl. This is thanks to the addition of The Sealed Room”, an “unofficial” soundtrack recorded for the eponymous movie from 1909. In 2014 Mercante Di Sogni became the new keyboard player, taking the place of Claudio Ferreri. In 2015 a tragic event changed the line-up again: AJ Blissett passed away, but the band didn't surrender to agony. Because love for music gives energy enough to continue the trip so they find an eclectic, well-known musician: Alessio “Fuzz” Caorsi who becomes the new electric guitarist. In the beginning of 2016 keyboard player Claudio Ferreri re-enters the band; later on, the same year, the band takes a three days and three nights session to record The Key Of The Garden, the final chapter of the trilogy. In 2017 the moniker becomes Fungus Family, to emphasize the strong bond between the members. In 2019 the new album is out on Black Widow Records, with a couple of bonus tracks (for the first time covering other seminal artists), and with the guest star Nik Turner (Hawkwind) appearing for some spicy and spacey flavour.
Well, to my delight, on this new album Fungus Family sounds like the Fungus I know from its second effort: a sound with strong hints from The Doors (blues oriented prog, and Jim Morrison-like vocals), Pink Floyd (psychedelia) and Vanilla Fudge (Hammond and rock guitar). The seven own compositions (and also covers from Pink Floyd and Family) deliver lots of flowing shifting moods. From dreamy with flute and piano or a spacey synthesizer intro to a catchy beat with fiery wah wah guitar, or a slow rhythm with sumptuous Hammond organ. The colouring with the keyboards and guitar is outstanding and generates many exciting moments, some examples.
A mind blowing psychedelic sounding guitar solo with wah wah and echo and lush Hammond in my highlight IQ84.
Glorious Mini Moog flights and propulsive guitar riffs in Becoming To Be.'
Blues meets psychedelia' with compelling guitar and Hammond in Holy Picture.
And mellow flute, piano and vocals in the wonderful ballad Eternal Mind.
It's incredible how easily Fungus Family switches from dreamy to a mid-tempo, or a slow rhythm to bombastic outbursts, what a tension and tasteful musical ideas. This is topped by the singer with his Jim Morrison-like voice, from tender to expressive. At some moments slightly theatrical or with hints from Peter Hammill (emotional outbursts), but I love that strong emotion in prog, it adds an extra dimension.
As mentioned earlier in this review Fungus delivers two cover versions. First See Emily Play from Pink Floyd, the band turns it into a more rock oriented song. The music is more dynamic and powerful and less psychedelic featuring propulsive guitar riffs, fiery rock guitar and cascades of Hammond. The singer does a very good job with his gentle vocals, close to the original. Fungus creates a subtle moment in the end with first dreamy acoustic guitar and vocals, and finally a bombastic rock atmosphere. And second The Weavers Answer from Family, it sounds like 'The Doors play Family', very tastefully arranged, with a distorted bass, fiery rock guitar and lush Hammond. Of course, no one can top Roger Chapman and his cynical and tremolo loaded vocals, but the singer presents a pleasant own rendition.
This is a compelling and dynamic time travel to the Seventies featuring blues rooted prog like The Doors, Floydian psychedelia and Vanilla Fudge sounding Hammond and rock guitar, the music succeeds to generate a lot of 'wow-moments'. It's far away from the classic music inspired legendary prog like The Nice, ELP, Yes and Gentle Giant, but I am absolutely delighted about this new Fungus Family album, highly recommended!
**** Erik Neuteboom (edited by Dave Smith)
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