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Mortal Fungus - "Back to the Lombrosary" (CD)

Mortal Fungus - "Back to the Lombrosary" CD cover image

"Back to the Lombrosary" track listing:

1. Back to the Lombrosary (intro) (1:30)
2. Repulsive Retaliation (3:30)
3. Homopedophile (3:25)
4. Season of Survival (3:04)
5. Seeds of Impurity (3:37)
6. Frightening Countries (3:54)
7. Abortive Foetus Disposal (4:26)

Reviewed by on May 13, 2009

"While the album has its pitfalls, it has clearly eclipsed the earlier work these musicians have put out and will likely find itself garnering a new fan base among the more dedicated death metal crowd."

Mortal Fungus is composed almost entirely of Italian musicians who have all been working together in one band or another for over a decade, exploring the various genres of the metal style and expressing their sounds in different ways. Even though they’ve been playing shows and putting out demos under the Mortal Fungus name since 1991 “Back to the Lombrosary” is the first time the band has issued a full-length release. While the album has its pitfalls, it has clearly eclipsed the earlier work these musicians have put out and will likely find itself garnering a new fan base among the more dedicated death metal crowd.

After the band members’ other main act Transiency released the album “Manqualm” in 2007, it seemed like the Italian crew was destined for absolute mediocrity at best and utter boredom at worst. “Back to the Lombrosary” shares a few of the problems present in “Manqualm,” but for the most part has left that horrid release in the dust were it belonged. The main parallel between the two discs is the tacked on instrumental opening track that has no purpose and no connection to the rest of the songs. “Back to the Lombrosary” is even guiltier of throwing in an instrumental just for the sake of one than its predecessor, as the track goes in such a different direction than the rest of the music that it almost seems like the record label screwed up and put the wrong song on the album. There is an odd keyboard arrangement that brings to mind beaches and jungles in the Caribbean instead of the standard gothic piano piece that would normally situate itself on a death metal album.

Once the intro track has ended, the similarities to Transiency end and Mortal Fungus comes into their own. The dreary and plodding pace of “Manqualm” is dropped in favor of much faster guitars and drums that throw in lots of interesting tricks and little changes to keep the music sounding mostly fresh. The guitar work is easily the best part of the album, as they know when to go at rapid fire speed, when to go slower, when to drag out a note, and when to switch into a blistering solo. Even though Mortal Fungus is basically an old school style death metal band, the guitars frequently evoke more of a heavy thrash feel, especially when the requisite solo present on almost every track shows up. In true death metal fashion, Mortal Fungus tries to come up with the most offensive titles possible like “Homopedophile” and “Abortive Foetus Disposal.”

The vocals are the strongest death metal element on the album, and they are also the biggest detraction from the music. The vocalist puts on a much better showing than on the Transiency album, mostly because the screams are finally high enough in the mix to actually be scrutinized, but that same level of scrutiny makes some of the failings more apparent. There is a decent amount of range involved, which is always commendable, but overall the growls lack much punch and come off as an amateur attempt. They sound quite a bit like the early Therion death growls, back when they were still growling, but with much less polish. The thrashy nature of the guitars coupled with the lackluster growls lead to the conclusion that Mortal Fungus is one band that would probably be better off with clean singing instead of growls, which isn’t something that happens often.

A violin gets briefly thrown in on the last song in a final attempt to differentiate the album from the hordes of other death metal releases out there. While it’s frankly underused, the short amount of time it does show up really changes the tone of the song and makes it the best track on the disc. The violin is played in a slightly out of tune way for a thoroughly creepy and avant-garde feel. It’s a real shame more elements like that weren’t thrown into the other songs, as that easily would have catapulted the album out of decent and into great.

“Back to the Lombrosary” certainly isn’t ground breaking and it probably won’t make anyone like death metal who didn’t love it before, but it’s got enough decent elements that fans of death metal with some thrash leanings may find a new diversion to tide them over until a release from a bigger name band comes along.

Highs: Cool thrashy solos, interesting violin part on the final track

Lows: Lackluster death growls, doesn't really break any new ground

Bottom line: A decent, if somewhat derivative, death metal release with a few thrash and avant-garde leanings.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)