Torture. As essential to death metal lyrics as it is to oppressive regimes the world over, the simple desire to exact pain has spawned countless obscene and horrific technologies. Strappado take their name from one in which the hands are tied behind the back and the victim is then suspended by them. There’s a lineage of bands out there named after torture devices that – as far as I know – starts with Iron Maiden, but Strappado are pretty far down the line from these forebears musically, instead acting as a sibling to the departed but influential Brodequin. Much like those familial malefactors, Strappado play brutal death metal and sing – if their song titles are to be trusted – of the minutiae of torture. Exigit Sincerae Devotionia Affectus1 is the Spanish troupe’s first swing at their victims, but even the most inquisitive brutal death fans are notoriously hard to break.

Unlike the state, death metal turns first to an indirect and usually consensual method of enacting power over the body: riffs. You won’t be able to parse Strappado’s unintelligible barks for references to historical torture methods, but the music gets the point across. This is heavy, nasty stuff, mixing some aspects of modern slam into their old-school brutal death sound. While there’s plenty of comparisons to be made between Exigit and albums like None So Vile and Effigy of the Forgotten, the B-side of Exigit plays with some of the black metal influence brought to the genre by bands like Abominable Putridity. The band line up and knock down their riffs with the unaffected dutifulness of a hangman, ever ready to execute another slam.

For a while their approach is effective. After two songs I thought Exigit was going to be a great album. After ten I wished it had been. At 27 minutes long, Exigit packs the right amount of brutality in and doesn’t draw things out. Yet it’s so steady in its pacing and consistent in its goals that I can barely remember it after. Strappado never whip out a show-stopping riff as Unfathomable Ruination would, and they simply don’t have the inhuman chops to match the barbarism of Defeated Sanity, who have been the standard-bearers for this sort of music almost since their inception. The band play things fast and brutal but never make a move you don’t expect.

A codgerly force within me rises now to ridicule metal’s foolish excess. While Angry Metal Guy might gripe that tech bands have “too many notes2,” I’d argue that the problem with this album – and many others like it – does not stem from its surplus of notes. Rather, this is a downstream effect of a far greater problem – a lack of rests.  Part of the reason Defeated Sanity can wipe the floor with any other brutal death metal bands is their masterful control over what plays when – instruments add and subtract themselves from the field in almost symphonic order, and the gaps thereby created give the band’s labyrinthine compositions structure. In Strappado’s case, every member is almost always playing, and the resulting buzz robs their music of its impact: each song on Exigit hits only once, at its beginning, at head level. On a masterful album like Passages Into Deformity, the songs have a never-ending arsenal and switch their tactics too quickly for the listener to prepare for the next blow. While Strappado’s riffs are the same atonal splatter as Defeated Sanity’s, they’re delivered without the calculation and artistry.

It’s rarely fun to tell readers that an album just isn’t remarkable, but that’s a conclusion that I have to come to here, and a conclusion I seem to come to with most albums I hear that lie on the old-school side of brutal death. Part of the reason modern slam-core is fun is that it allows for a lot more variety in its songs and sound than traditional slam, and when bands like Strappado take up the bloody and constrictive old-school slam mantle, they can’t expect to look very impressive in it. Criticism is a ruthless business in part because of bad art, but mostly because of the great, swirling mass of mediocre art that may stem from passion but fails to ignite that in others. It’s albums like Exigit Sincerae Devotionia Affectus that I wish I could give an angel to; they made a good stab at it, but for the dullness of their blade never break the skin. Another brutal death album for the pyre of brutal death albums that weren’t vicious enough to make the cut.


Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Comatose Music
Websites: strappado.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/strappado
Releases Worldwide:
August 9th, 2019

Show 2 footnotes

  1. I’ll save you the trouble: Requires Sincere Devotion (Latin)
  2. In reference to the Amadeus scene.