Infected Mushroom is an Israeli based duo (formed in 1997 by Erez Eisen and Amit Duvdevani) that has evolved from one of the pioneering psytrance groups of the late ‘90s to a festival-headlining progressive psytrance / borderline rock band. Their evolution has seen them fuse metal and rock into their original goa trance roots, forming the preeminent progressive psytrance group of our time.
The duo started with the album The Gathering in 1999, at the tail end of the lifespan of Goa Trance. As with many goa pioneers, Duvdevani had spent time following his stint in the Israeli army in the Indian state of Goa, where he absorbed the musical styles that had evolved there over the previous five to ten years. The Gathering features many elements of classic goa, including samples from science fiction or mysticism (see “Release Me” in particular), as well as an overall organic-sounding constant bass. The track “Psycho” from this album is considered to be one of the best tracks in the history of psytrance.
The follow-up album, Classical Mushroom, shows quite clearly the duo’s evolution from goa to the psytrance genre. Listen to the opening of “Sailing in the Sea of Mushroom” and you can already hear the more industrial, harsh sounds that distinguish psytrance from its more organic, smoothly flowing ancestor genre. The tracks “The Missed Symphony” and “Dracul” show clearly where the “classical” in the album title comes from. “The Missed Symphony” opens with classical style piano (Eisen was a classically trained pianist before venturing into psytrance in his late teens), and layers symphonic strings over the beginnings of the psytrance backbone, and “Dracul” likewise opens with symphonic strings, which return midway through the track. Throughout the entire evolution of the group, “Dracul” has remained one of my favorite tracks.
If there is one track that sums up the evolution of Infected Mushroom over time, it’s the famous “Dancing with Kadafi” from their 2001 album, B.P. Empire. This was the album that started to anger psytrance purists, as there is an audible departure from straight psytrance to fusion with metal, rock, and other genres. Listening to “Dancing with Kadafi”, you hear melodic synths à la synth-pop, a mellow rock guitar opening (think some sort of mellow Dire Straits vibe), ambient electronica, classical piano with nature soundscapes, slightly eastern-tinged string and flute soli, and a fairly constant psychedelic undertone in the synth bass. This album has its psytrance moments, such as “Prehistoric Goa Mood”, but even there the influences of rock and metal are undeniable.
The next few albums continue this trend. Converting Vegetarians was explicitly split into two CDs, one for trance and the other for “other” songs. “Deeply Disturbed” stands out on the trance side, showing where Infected Mushroom has taken trance over their first 5 years, while “Scorpion Frog” serves as a bit of a throwback to Classical Mushroom, and “Converting Vegetarians” and “I Wish” jump out from the other side.
The title of IM the Supervisor comes from an incident in Germany when Duvdevani was attempting to argue with a hotel receptionist in English. When Duvdevani asked for the supervisor, the receptionist angrily replied, “I’M the supervisor”. This album is a bit of a throwback to older Infected Mushroom, although the industrial influences are still present and the major single, “Cities of the Future” was radio-edited into something more resembling psychedelic prog-rock/metal (the original album version has much more of the psytrance feel). You can actually tell that this album returns a little bit to the original psytrance sound just from looking at the song lengths. Goa tracks were rarely shorter than 7 minutes, usually more in the 8-9 minute range. Psytrance tracks are only slightly shorter. The shortest track on Converting Vegetarians was a mere 3 minutes – whereas on IM the Supervisor they returned to all tracks being 6+ minutes.
Vicious Delicious again adds a new layer to Infected Mushroom’s discography. The track “Artillery” is a hip-hop track with metal influences and barely audible psytrance noises here and there. “Becoming Insane”, with its Spanish themed guitar and lyrics over a psytrance backbone, likewise continued IM’s alienation of psytrance purists and some of its older fans. Even the more trance-y tracks show industrial and rock/metal influences.
For a huge Goa fan like me, this is probably the low point of IM’s career – even though I still find many of the songs quite good, they don’t match up to the sheer excellence of their early albums or some of the more recent singles. It’s hard to say exactly why, but I feel this album represents something of a transition, where Infected Mushroom doesn’t seem to quite have decided whether they want to be rock influenced psytrance or psytrance influenced rock. That indecision shows up in muddled songs that fail to take advantage of their talents in both genres.
Their most recent album, Legend of the Black Shawarma, is somewhat in the IM the Supervisor range of their career. There’s clear hard rock/metal influence in most of the tracks, and they use recorded vocals in place of samples, but for some reason, the musicality of the album strikes me as being better than that of Vicious Delicious. “Sa’eed” is an excellent track that isn’t too psytrance-y but manages to avoid being a pure hard rock track. “Smashing the Opponent”, featuring Johnathan Davis of Korn, is an excellent single that again maintains little psytrance flavor but fuses the best parts of it with a strong metal-esque track. On this album, they finally seem to have matured from the confusion of Vicious Delicious.
Infected Mushroom’s next album, Army of Mushrooms, comes out on May 8. From the two singles, it’s hard to tell how the album will be. “U R So Fucked” is some sort of bizarre psychedelic downtempo fused with dubstep, while “Nation of Wusses” could be off IM the Supervisor. We’ll see soon if IM is continuing to regain their form, or if they are slipping back down to the “low” of Vicious Delicious.
I will be back to review the album Army of Mushrooms, stay tuned for that!