Primitive Origins: Leaf Hound’s Growers of Mushroom

Primitive Origins is a column where we’ll look back at proto-metal and early metal that deserves a bit of your battered eardrum’s attention. We’re keeping it loose and easy here: there’s no strict guidelines other than it’s gotta be old, it helps if it’s obscure, and it’s gotta rock out surprisingly hard for its context. Pscyh-ed out proto-metal from the late ’60s? Of course. Early attempts at doom metal from the ’70s? Hell yeah. Underground Soviet metal from the early ’80s? Sure. Bring it on. Bring it all on.

Growers of Mushroom is the ultra-collectible (one sold for over $4300 last year) debut album from British rockers Leaf Hound, who certainly had talent in their ranks: when they were called Black Cat Bones (one album with a name that sounds like a Raven record, Barbed Wire Sandwich, 1970) they featured members who went on to form Free and join Foghat.

They didn’t waste time getting a new lineup together and writing and recording their one and only album, 1971’s Growers of Mushroom, which is definitely worth some attention from metalheads of 2017.

Opener “Freelance Fiend” absolutely nails the cowbell and southern-fried proto-stoner riffing; there’s no way Jimmy Bower hasn’t spent some quality time with that opening riff. Totally killer, man; this one predates NOLA sludge by decades and is basically the blueprint for every Eyehategod riff ever. Killer way to open the album, huge riffs for miles, worth the price of admission alone right here (uh, maybe not the $4300 price, but, you know, $15 or $20).

Next cut “Sad Road to the Sea” tones down the huge stoner riffs a bit for a more acoustic-but-rockin’-Zep approach, one that is very much of 1971, with great wailing vocals from the very capable Peter French, a new addition since the Black Cat Bones album. “Drowned My Life In Fear” again shows off French’s pipes (seriously, dude goes for it) while laying down another tough-as-nails proto-doom riff. The combo of these huge riffs and French’s great vocals works wonders here:

On “Work My Body,” the band stretch out and show how stoned they are before coming back in locked on a hard groove, with French totally killing it behind the mic again. “Stray” then drops yet another rad, quite Zep-ish, riff, one that boogies a bit too hard to be considered proto-doom, instead going to a proto-stoner place that delights just as much.

“With a Minute to Go” is mellow ’70s fare, done in an extremely convincing, road-weary, Allman Brothers fashion, with a very Robert Plant vocal line; nothing proto-metal here, but a great tune nonetheless. The title track follows it up, and it’s a rather humorous and hysterical piece of quirky ’70s stoner rock:

“Stagnant Pool” has yet another monster of a riff, the band closing the album with that and the awesomely titled “Sawdust Caesar,” which ends off the record in an uncharacteristically groovy and funky space. Oddly, Leaf Hound make it work, the whole thing bringing to mind a room full of lazy, hazy stoners, smiles miles wide, these riffs taking up as much of the airspace as the smoke, everyone looking as happy as Jimmy Bower at his happiest, Leaf Hound absolutely providing a soundtrack worth remembering with this great slab of proto-doom and proto-stoner rock. The band broke up after this album (which has been reissued a few times over the years, so you don’t need to spend huge coin to get it); they reformed in 2004 with a different lineup, but this is the only studio document of this very rockin’ Leaf Hound configuration.

Leaf Hound’s Growers of Mushroom – The Decibel breakdown:

Do I need to be stoned to listen to this?: No way. The riffs are all the drugs you need.

Heaviness factor: More consistently heavy than many of the bands we’ve discussed here, thanks to the band’s love of huge, proto-doom riffs.

Obscura Triviuma: Rumour has it they recorded the whole album in 11 hours, presumably so they could get back to smoking weed.

Other albums: 2007’s Unleashed, featuring a reunited Leaf Hound with a different lineup. Also of note for metalheads is a 2006 live EP on Rise Above Records, which has a song with one of the best names ever: “Too Many Rock ‘n’ Roll Times.”

Related bands: Black Cat Bones, Wishing Well, Free, Foghat.

Alright, fine, if you must: Mushrooms… or something a bit leafier.