Strychnos – A Mother’s Curse Review

Martin Leth Andersen has been active on the Danish extreme metal for years. The Undergang—no, not that one, this one—bassist is in at least five active projects, with Strychnos, where he handles bass and vox, ticking along since 1998, without releasing an album. Until now. A four-piece combining death metal with a black’n’roll vibe, Strychnos seems to rear up every decade or so, putting out a demo and a single around the time of its inception, an EP and appearing on a compilation in 2011, and then going quiet again until 2021, when another demo dropped. Now, here we are with A Mother’s Curse. Inspired by the ending of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Tale of a Mother—”And Death walked with her child into an unknown land”—and sporting a Daniel Corcuera cover based on Danish sculptor Niels Hansen Jacobsen’s statue ‘Death and the Mother’ from 1892, this is a tale of tragic Danish horror.

For all the brvtality of the blackened death on show and the blood-and-gore antics of the band on stage and in photo shoots, A Mother’s Curse lacks the light-draining misery or terror of, say, NONE’s Damp Chill of Life. You get the sense, whether accurate or not, that there is a slightly playful air to Strychnos’ efforts and that the horror elements have just a hint of a tongue-in-cheek edge to them, driven perhaps by the classic, heavy metal undertones to the likes of “Blessed be the Bastard Reign.” The huge bass groove delivered by Leth Andersen on that track conjured the death’n’roll of France’s Phazm for me. That thick bass-led seam to A Mother’s Curse is combined with early Carcass and the likes of Necrot or Mortiferum, to create a stomping, rolling brute of a record.

From Nis Rode Larsen’s stampeding drums to the classic edge to Andreas Lynge’s guitars (see the great solo that he lays down about halfway through the title track, for example), there is an irrepressible energy to Strychnos that I liked from the start. On mic duties, Leth Andersen harnesses a deep, guttural roar, as he bellows his way through A Mother’s Curse’s 42-minute run time. Across the album, there are a few short spoken word sections (“Horror Sacred Torture Divine” makes particular use of them), which are delivered in a coarse, French half-whisper. The more atmospheric, down-tempo first half of “Regiments of the Betrayed” provides a breathing space at about the halfway mark, as the juggernaut briefly slows. Any sense that the back half of A Mother’s Curse might see Strychnos take its foot off the gas throat is quickly dispelled by “Manus Nigra,” while “Blind Eye Epiphany” has a traditional death metal flare to it that wouldn’t be out of place on an early Obituary record.

Feeling tight, well-written and bloat-free, there is much to like about Strychnos’ debut. Lynge’s guitar has a great, rich tone to it and he combines some nice melodic leads and solid chugging riffs, with a couple of great solos. The production is decent too. Rough and slightly fuzzed at the edges, as it should be for this style, it sounds better than its DR rating might suggest, with the bass nice and prominent in the mix. If there is a misstep in the production, its on the drums, with the snare sounding a little ‘boxy’. My only real gripe with A Mother’s Curse is that, for me, it’s lacking one great, standout track. It’s very well-executed, groove-heavy death metal and I was always happy to hit play on it during my ten or twelve spins of the record but there just isn’t one song I could call out as stellar. The closest we get to that is the very good lead single, “Blessed be the Bastard Reign.”

Perhaps this is an unfair criticism of Strychnos but for all the album’s quality, I found that A Mother’s Curse just doesn’t stay front of mind once it finishes. It’s a very hard quality to nail down, as there are albums of undoubtedly lesser overall quality that have those couple of stellar moments, which help keep them alive even when they’re not playing. Still, there is no doubt Strychnos has delivered a very good slice of blackened death metal, which I am sure I will be returning to.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Dark Descent Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: November 4th, 2022

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