Delicate, ethereal, muted; these are the words that I think of when describing some other album by some other band. Mind Palace Of The Mushroom God by Dungeon Weed, on the other hand, is an album I was recently discussing in derisive tones with my fellow boffins in the top-secret underground bunker of The Sleeping Shaman. It came up as a prime example of the glut of silly weed/bong/dope band names in the heavy underground.
After enjoying several rounds of haughty laughter worthy of a French Taunter, I hit upon a radical idea; perhaps I should actually listen to it! After all, Forbidden Place have released so much cool stuff – what harm could there be? Upon doing so, and reporting that it was actually pretty good, our tyrannical overlord Lee promptly declared that if I didn’t immediately write a mighty review, he would strangle my pet goldfish Dennis [honest guvnor I really didn’t – Ed]. Shaking with fear, but remembering my oath, I opened pretentiousmusicjournalistthesaurus.com in my browser and began to write:
Let’s start with the silly name and the lurid cover art – what’s going on here? Well, in future years we’ll look back on 2020 and ask each other, ‘What did you get up to during lockdown?’ If your name is Dmitri Mavra, better known as guitarist for retro rockers Skunk, your answer might be: ‘I dug out my mint condition 1st edition D&D Monster Manual, ingested some psychoactives, and started writing wizard-themed stoner/sludge.’
It’s a concept album with a fully developed story, and it’s silly, fun, and heavy. If you’re interested in the storyline, check out Dungeon Weed’s bandcamp for a detailed synopsis. Mavra takes care of guitar, bass, synth, vocals, lyrics, composition, recording, and cover art, but is obviously far too lazy to provide the drums or backing vocals. These are provided by Chris McGrew and Thia Moonbrook respectively.
The drums are on point, and the synths are a real creepy treat: sometimes abstract and atmospheric, sometimes shimmering and throbbing along with the trudging guitars…
The music itself is a lurching, lumbering amalgam of stoner, doom, and sludge. Orcus Immortalis begins proceedings with a hefty mid-paced swagger, and quickly introduces a style of male-female dual vocals fairly unique in modern heavy music. Thia Moonbrook’s vocals have a soaring Grace Slick quality to them, and Mavra’s hoarse growl has more in common with Captain Beefheart or Howlin’ Wolf than anything you’d hear in death or doom, for example. It’s even got a touch of Beefheart’s off-kilter melodies.
Mavra’s got a couple of extra vocal tricks up his sleeve too. In the aptly named Lumbering Hell, the vocals are more akin to a death growl, and in Sorceror With The Skull Face, he briefly opens right up to an anguished grunge howl.
The drums are on point, and the synths are a real creepy treat: sometimes abstract and atmospheric, sometimes shimmering and throbbing along with the trudging guitars. They’re often barely audible through the mire, but add a palpable density to riff-and-vocal based passages, and extra structure for the tasty leads.
So there you go – Mind Palace Of The Mushroom God kinda does what it says on the tin. You get bludgeoning downtuned riffs beefed up by menacing synths. You get amorphous black pseudopods and undead sorcerers with wicked purple moustaches. You get unearthly vocals that may actually have been created when an unscrupulous gang of sludge-loving thugs travelled back in time to kidnap Don Van Vliet and Grace Slick for their nefarious songwriting plans. Maybe, like me, you get to stop taking yourself so seriously and listen to some cool tunes.
(At the time of publishing, Dennis the goldfish is alive and well.)
Scribed by: Rob Bryant