I wish I was born with the ability to remain blissfully ignorant, especially when it comes to the music you and I enjoy. For starters, my output would increase exponentially from not saying “fuck this bullshit” due to bands promoting questionable beliefs this calendar year alone, and I would most likely review an album at face value. Oh, and I would relish in the sheer joy of ignoring the fact sheet that comes packed with about 75% of the music we review. What am I getting at, you may ask? Tetanus Mystique, the second album by French “blackened” death metal merchants Mithridatic, is based on writer Roger Gilbert-LeComte, and his getting high by injecting tetanus into himself. Lovely. Oh, and the album prides itself on being an unflinching look into mental illness and stability.1
Let’s bring the good to light first. Don’t worry, this won’t take long at all. The leads on here can be pretty tasty, and elevate literally every track they feature on. Also, drummer Kévin Paradis showcases some impressive speed and blistering double-bass work in virtually every song. Standout “The Dead Mountain of Life” highlights Paradis’ blazing drumming and the fretwork of Alexandre Brosse and Romaine Sanchez. Also, Tetanus Mystique is mercifully short at a hair over a half-hour long.
Now, the bad. Ready? The band hypes itself up to be for those into Morbid Angel, Immolation, and Mayhem, but they lack the songwriting chops of the former two, and the only thread tying Mithridatic to Trve Norwegian Black Metal is how vocalist Guitou sounds like a third-tier Attila Csihar when he leaves his growling comfort zone. Opener “God’s Blindspot,” once you get past the sample of a bong burbling, starts off as a pretty good, though paint-by-numbers, death metal track until Guitou starts invoking his blackened weirdness, derailing any atmosphere and build-up. “Lotophagus (Lotus Eaters’ Dream)” almost got me jumpingdafuckup with its opening riff aping a bad Soulfly track from the early 00s before somewhat resembling a death metal song. Also, barring the notable exceptions above, I had a hell of a time recalling any of the material on Tetanos Mystique, and this is while listening to the damn thing to write this review. That alone would be enough to avoid recommendation of the album.
But there lies another massive bone to pick, and that’s in the premise of Tetanos Mystique. The footnote of this review threw a major red flag, so here’s another one: Mithridatic handled the topic of mental illness with the same amount of care as, say, the Swedish Shining or Attila. What I would give for a lyric sheet to accompany this. Instead of handling the subject matter with the kind of weight that An Isolated Mind gracefully and painfully exhibited, Mithridatic, from what I could make out from the muddy production, comes across as edgy, particularly on tracks like “God’s Blindspot” and “Toothless Bite.” The latter, by the way, has an unnecessary minute-long sample at the end, of some kid yelling at a hysterically sobbing woman (presumably their mother, as their kid is yelling “MAAAAAH!”) to “eat (their) fucking pussy” over and over again. As someone who’s battled depression and anxiety issues for a long time, comparing mental illness to this is tasteless at best, and downright ignorant and irresponsible at worst. It doesn’t matter the origins of the actual sample if it’s being used in this manner. This is the reason why people struggling with mental health issues have a difficult time coming forward with their concerns when we’re cast in this bad a light, and treated as a joke.
I could go on, but there are word limits in place, and I would rather be talking about literally anything else at the moment. I got my hopes up that we would have yet another (somewhat) tasteful offering dedicated to mental health issues, but it’s instead yet another reason why non-metalheads judge our music with justified disdain. I avoid cliches as much as humanly possible, but Tetanos Mystique is one, and it definitely handled mental health problems poorly. For those looking for quality blackened death metal, look literally anywhere else.
- From the one-sheet, left fully intact: “It’s a one way dive into dis-ease, mental illness, discomfort, psychological torment; away from whatever is “fitting” or “being healthy”. It’s, musically and lyrically, one of those rare pieces of art you should take with caution for if immerging yourself too deep into it, you’d really be at risk, mentally-wise.” ↩