Album: Into the Catacombs
There are a lot of cool things about being in the medical field—and really, even just being interested in chemistry and biology in the first place. You get to learn an incredible amount (in an incredibly short period of time) about how the body works, how life works (at least partially) and the sum total of the absurd number of chemical reactions, enzymes, substrates and products that give us the ability to function as cognizant, competent beings.
You learn physiology, pathology, pharmacology—you learn how the body works and, in doing so, you learn to appreciate just how frail the human body is.
Enter Strychnia, a crushingly aggressive act from Dayton, New Jersey who gain their name from a colorless, odorless poison distilled from Nux Vornica seeds. Once abused as a central nervous system stimulant, its adverse effects on the neurotransmitter function and cytoarchitecture of the brain rapidly turned it from a great way to get high into a great way to end someone’s life. In the same cruel and insidious fashion, Strychnia strike out once more, years since their previous effort, totally annihilating everything the listener holds dear. A magnificent amalgam of deathcore, slamming brutal death metal, straight up death metal and a little something grisly and intangible, Into the Catacombs is a crushing experience that brings heavy in more ways one can count.
Into the Catacombs, as its name might imply, is a true journey into unexplored and grim territories somewhere between the poorly-defined borders delineating deathcore, slamming death metal and the more “brutal” subtypes of each. With ethereal and atmospheric—hell, even melodic—moments that define portions of the album’s introductory number as well as some of “Within the Catacombs,” the band draw from more outwardly metallic styles excellently, evident within the efforts from guitarists Tony Barhoum and Rory Robinson. Where the duo might be more subtle on the aforementioned moments of the release, make no mistake—when it comes to tracks like “Plague Pit” and “Volcanic Winter,” they’re absolutely unstoppable, riffing and shredding just as brilliantly as they chug out steamrolling, spine-shrinking slams. The duo swing like twin ten ton sledge-hammers during the climactic portions of the lead single, “Volcanic Winter,” just as they do throughout “Deprivating Senses” and “Curb-Stomped” both—much in thanks to the foundation provided by percussionist Jake Meerholz. Meerholz is malicious behind the kit, with double kick drums that excellently complement the insane technicality that Robinson and Barsoum provide so brilliantly. This isn’t necessarily new—as the group have always had a tight musical dynamic—but their production and precision is miles above and beyond their previous releases, giving the listener a revamped feel to the same, familiar and furiously heavy Strychnia they might know and love. Throughout Into the Catacombs, this terrifying trio are at the top of their game, with track after track providing nothing short of grade A evidence of that.
Then, there comes the roars from frontman Kevin O’Laughlin, whose work is nothing short of incredible throughout the entirety of Into the Catacombs. Where O’Laughlin’s voice takes frequent breaks between blistering breakdowns and salvos of slamming intensity, he still peppers even the most frenzied riffs and leads with mile-per-minute syllables shrieked in a shrill-and-soul-shredding fashion. “Deprivating Senses” is an excellent example—and even “Within the Catacombs,” scant though it may be with vocal effort, still shines in its own right. O’Laughlin is a minimalist in a good way, using his range and energy only where it’s truly needed to make a point. It might not have the same stand-out, one-of-a-kind flair the instrumentation has—but lets be real—that’s nigh impossible to come across these days in the heavy music underworld, and O’Laughlin’s voice is just as good as any other big-name juggernaut.
Into the Catacombs is one part slamming mayhem, one part murderous malintent and another part something else altogether—borrowing from deathcore, melo-death, death metal and just about everything else that chugs, riffs, slams or beats ass. Strychnia are as toxic as their name might imply, and while they might not be quite top dog of the pile, they’re definitely trading in a gritty bark for a rabies-ridden, flesh-rotting bite.
For Fans Of: Vulvodynia, Ingested, Gamma Sector, Thy Art is Murder
By: Connor Welsh
Percussionist: Jake Meerholz