Shaped by Human Frailty with Strangle Wire
Art: Kirill Semenov
Formed in 2017, Strangle Wire is a death metal band from Northern Ireland. Strangle Wire deliver old school death metal with a strong modern influence. Branding themselves as Psychological Death metal, their artwork and lyrical concepts attempt to capture the darker parts of the human condition. To date, they have three releases ‘Narcissism (7″ single), The Dark Triad (MCD) and Shaped by Human Frailty (Album). Outside of touring Ireland and the UK, Strangle Wire embarked on a headline US tour in 2018 to support their release, The Dark Triad. They then returned to the US in 2023, opening for Defeated Sanity, Malignancy and Prophecy to support their 2022 album ‘Shaped by Human Frailty’. Strangle Wire have had the opportunity to share the stage with such greats as Cattle Decapitation, Carcass, Haemorrhage, Cytotoxin and Rotten Sound.
When we started the band, we just labelled our music as death metal and didn’t think any more about it. However, following the release of The Dark Triad, and more so since the release of our new album, we have frequently been referred to as Old School Death Metal. That’s a fair label in many respects, although we feel there is a modern influence on our stuff. We coined the term Psychological Death Metal to reflect the themes in our lyrics and artwork.
I’m trying to figure out how to answer what our music means to us. We all went into this to create heavy, extreme music emphasising riffs and songwriting instead of speed and brutality. We take the band very seriously, both in approach and attitude. This is reflected in every aspect of the band, from lyrical themes and artwork to audio/video production and touring.
We released ‘Shaped by Human Frailty’ in October 2022. It’s a nine-track album that we recorded in Foel Studio, Wales, with Chris fielding, and it was put out on Grindscene Records. We follow the same creative process that we always do. Our guitarist, Ross, will write and record the “first draft” at home and send it to all of us. By the next practice, John has the skeleton of the drums done; this part happens quickly. Once the two of them can play a track from start to finish, we demo the drums and guitar so I can write the vocal structures at home, and Daff can get the bass lines up to speed. We’ll often make a few small tweaks in the practice hall following that process, but they are rarely huge changes. And, of course, like most bands, we inevitably scrap one or two within that process.
The theme that I stick to when writing the lyrics is one of a psychological nature. The album title was inspired by Walter Jackson Freeman II, an American physician specialising in lobotomy. Despite his practices being seen as somewhat revolutionary then, they were deemed destructive shortly after. A colleague of his once commented that he didn’t believe Walter was evil, just misguided and was doing what he thought was right. Also, Walter was shaped by human frailty as much as his patients. Our album is about how humans cope with suffering, and like Walter, we are all just doing our best, or what we think is right, at that time. Thus, the title Shaped by Human Frailty was very fitting.
Each set of lyrics is based on a composite character instead of an individual. I intended to capture the various ways in which people cope with distress. The whole album is about suffering through medication, self-harm, distraction, blame, belief development and suicide, amongst others.
I think you reach a particular stage in life where you realise that everyone has their shit going on, and all everyone is trying to do is get by. With that in mind, my lyrics are based on observations I make based on people I come into contact with. I find the human mind fascinating and human behaviour even more so. Writing lyrics for the band gives me an outlet for my ideas and understanding and a way of synthesising my interests in psychology, creativity and love of music.
In relation to creating our music, all the band members are very passionate about music, both listening to and producing it. Every member has been involved in bands for around 20-30 years and has no desire to stop. Outside of wanting to create music, all four of us have a need/want to perform and challenge ourselves, and that has been a theme in SW from day one. Whether challenging ourselves regarding musical ability, putting on an intense live performance or how far and wide we can tour, it’s a massive part of what drives us to create.
I can only speak for myself on this one, as I’m unaware of the other member’s personal life philosophies. As I said in a previous answer, my lyrics are based on observations made in my daily life, so it would only be possible for me to compartmentalise one with it affecting the other. I firmly believe in ‘life is what you make it’, although joy and suffering are not present in equal measure, and I argue that the scales are tipped more in favour of the latter. To bear the cruelty of existence, resilience and coping abilities are key. I believe that everyone is coping as best they can in this world, but that some tend to cope in more helpful ways than others.
I grew up sharing a room with my older brother, who loved music from an early age. I remember him playing Status Quo, progressing on Bon-Jovi, and then Def Leppard, all of which were great. It all changed when he brought home Iron Maiden Somewhere in Time, quickly followed by Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. I remember not having heard anything like it, and I was mesmerised by Bruce Dickinson’s voice, the catchy choruses and the artwork.
As I got older, he introduced me to Metallica, Slayer, Testament, Anthrax and the like, giving me a taste for the heavier side of things. I think I was 13 when he started bringing home Cannibal Corpse and Deicide, but I didn’t get death metal at that time, so I hated them. That all changed when he brought home Atrocity – Hallucinations. I remember going through the booklet whilst listening to it and being absorbed in the story that ran through the lyrics and the vocals. After that, I heard Cancer – Death Shall Rise, which hooked me. I’ll never forget the first time I heard the chorus of Hung, drawn and quartered. I think I developed a taste for the sound and started lapping up everything in my brother’s CD collection; Cannibal corpse, Deicide, Asphyx, At the Gates, Carcass etc. When I was 14, he started a death metal band, and they used to practice in our garage. I used to spend my Fridays nights watching them jam, and by the time I was 15, I thought, “Yeah, I want to do this”. And here we are.
It’s important to me for a number of reasons. It gives me a place to be creative and to express certain aspects of myself that I would struggle to express in any other domain. It allows me to connect with like-minded people and create something unique. Also, listening to it brings me a massive amount of pleasure and genuinely makes me a happier person. It’s important in the world as it does seem to unite people. This union is especially evident in the metal scene, where people, for the most part, are very accepting of one another in general.
I would consider it a spiritual experience or not. However, listening to music and spiritual experiences can cause the brain to release dopamine, so whether it’s a spiritual experience or not, there appears to be a common denominator.