Fungi – Into The Void

Fungi – Into The Void

Fungi are a Mexican band who take the alt-metal sounds of the late ’90s and early ’00s, and add a progressive edge. I’m not a fan of either label, but for what it’s worth, the sound of Into the Void is somewhere between the music described as grunge and what came after (conveniently enough described as post-grunge), but with the prog dial turned up. I’m often reminded quite a bit of Headspace or A Perfect Circle, for example. The sound is lush and melodic, and full of far more variety than expected. The band’s use of dynamics is awesome, with several beautiful, almost ambient, passages that provide a real sense of soundscape amongst the heaviness. Not that Fungi ever get that heavy, mind you. There are some really chunky riffs, and the music is undeniably energetic and punchy, but anyone who shies away from anything called prog metal need have no fear here.

They begin powerfully with Third Eye. After a quiet introduction, the drums of Alejandro Quiroga pound in, Nacho Villarreal chimes in with one of the many catchy guitar hooks he throws about throughout the length of the album, and Guayo Arizpe shows his prowess as a singer. I love the sound of Roberto Cebrian‘s bass on this number, and how prominent it is in the mix – and again this is a feature through the album. It may just be my ears hearing what they want to hear, but I love the way the metal sound of Third Eye sounds as if it is very heavily influenced by traditional Mexican music (or at least, what I think of as traditional Mexican music, and I am well aware of my ignorance here). Like the final song (Genesis), Third Eye is a quite euphoric number, triumphantly bookending the album. And in-between are several delectable morsels. There is no bad trip with this Fungi. What I love is how much the band are able to put into a song, no matter its duration. Fungi pack more emotion and storytelling into the one-and-a-half minutes of Passenger III than many bands do over five minutes.

Though they never really sound like them, I often hear a lot of early Genesis in Fungi’s music, particularly in the more pastoral moments. After the almost Tool-like heavy opening of Parallels, there are some beautiful flute sounds. Elsewhere, such as the coda to the previously mentioned Third Eye, the sound of a piano is used to similar great effect. The band that Fungi remind me of the most, though, are Kiwi band Outside In – who I’m quite confident that Fungi will have never heard of. What’s more, I made that comparison before ever paying attention to the vocals. By which, I don’t mean how they sound, but what is being sung. When I began to listen to that, I was struck by how similar the concepts of Into the Void and Outside In’s Karmatrain seemed to be. Now, admittedly, these are my inferences only, as I received no indication when I received Into the Void that it was even a concept album, let alone what that concept might be. However, the way the album flows from one track to the next, like the River within, certainly indicates that this is an album designed to be listened to from one end to the other. (In which direction is another matter, but I’ll get to that soon enough.)

Outside In’s Karmatrain took the novel Siddhartha and created an album following its structure to great affect. Fungi don’t follow the structure, but the similarities in what the story of Into the Void appears to be (to me), make use of much of the same imagery. A pivotal chapter in Siddhartha is represented by Outside In on their album in a song called Mushrooms, where the protagonist (paraphrasing the lyrics) takes time by a river, spinning round and dropping out. Into the Void seems to stretch out that chapter into an album. The theme of samsara – the eternal wandering of a restless soul, to be born and die, and born again, until able to step through the void and achieve mukti, nirvana, or some other elevated plane. It’s hard not to listen to Into the Void and imagine that the protagonist has stopped by the river, partaken of his own mushrooms, and reached the realisations that will allow him to make the final steps into the void, and beyond.

But now here’s the clever thing, and although I can’t be sure it’s the bands intention so much as my interpretation, it seems too perfectly created to be a coincidence. The album is a stream of consciousness (or a river, if you prefer), but it makes perfect sense no matter which direction you take. I was so struck by this idea as I listened to the album, that I had to make a playlist to listen to the album, beginning with Genesis (the final track), and ending with Third Eye (the opening number). Whichever direction the album is listened to, the same story is told (albeit with ever so different nuances). In either order, the album ends with the protagonist opening their eyes for the very first time. The idea of reincarnation is not just literal (corporal), but also metaphorical – when someone becomes aware of a truth (whatever that might be), and decides to make a change, a part of what makes them who they are has to “die”, in order for the new to be “born”.

Whichever way you listen to the album, the pairing of River and The Void provide the centrepiece, and it’s a glorious one. Although these are two of the shorter songs on the album, they pack a lot in. In fact, speaking of length, if I have one problem with this album, it is that it just seems too short. I don’t normally have a problem with albums of around 40-minutes, and it’s very rare for me to think they’re too short. More often than not, it is lengthier albums that outstay their welcome. But Into the Void just flies by and seems shorter than it is. Perhaps my sense of time has been affected by my ingestion of this Fungi, but I swear 40-minutes passes by in half that time or less. Music can be a powerful drug, and when Into the Void ends, I need more. Thankfully, I can take another hit whenever I like.

01. Third Eye (6:53)
02. Passenger III (1:26)
03. Parallels (6:10)
04. The Void (3:14)
05. River (4:22)
06. Reincarnation (6:33)
07. Genesis (10:16)

Total Time – 38:54

Guayo Arizpe – Vocals
Nacho Villarreal – Guitars
Alejandro Quiroga – Drums
Roberto Cebrian – Bass
~ With:
Raul Guerra – Keyboards

Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: Mexico
Date of Release: 30th June 2021

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