Punk Band La Maquinaria de Tortura Are a Reminder of the Genre’s Grisliest Tendencies

Photo by Elias C. Quintana

Members: Javier Garrote fronts the band, Jose Ortega is on lead guitar and Marlon Calzadilla plays bass. On the recording, it’s Gaby Napol on drums and Johnny Terror on guitar; in the new lineup, they’re replaced by Miles Freeborn and CJ, respectively.
Raíces: San Juan, Puerto Rico
Sounds like: Peruvian band Eutanasia is a fair sonic marker (they typically rework “Tratas de Buscar Algo” live), but with glammy riffs occasionally glazing over the grit
You should listen to La Maquinaria de Tortura because…even if just for 20 minutes, you can wear your on-trend leather chokers and harnesses like you really mean it.

As the bassist in Los Vigilantes, Javi Garrote sometimes gets to bear teeth as vocalist, slightly scouring the band’s semi-sweet doo-wop and power-pop leanings with a bit of grit. But a handful of songs he wrote felt too dark and snarling to fit within that brand of garage-punk; they needed their own outlet. Now, for the best of the worst Garrote’s got to offer, there’s La Maquinaria de Tortura.

Formed in cahoots with drummer Gaby Napol of early 2000s (now defunct, save for an occasional reunion) punk act Napolnariz, La Maquinaria de Tortura was basically named for Garrote: His last name is literally the eponymous method of execution by strangulation. The band’s debut EP, Acelera, out today, even features an image of its last use in Puerto Rico in the early 1900s.

The content within is, as one would expect, quite rotten and rude – often grim. “Asesino” goes there, but like the tracks that follow, downcast topics get upbeat punk treatment. These steaming piles of life’s miserable truths, of its most macabre moments — they’re instantly, irresistibly catchy. Even the combative “Inducido” leaves a trial that’s easy to follow, with Ortega’s riffs like an unflinching, steady path over which Garrote’s growls are perpetually kicking up dirt.

“Everyone has fetishes. And not everyone likes to show them.”

“[The song is] actually about being born into [the] world,” Garrote says. “When you’re birthed, you’re birthed into this metal table usually, in a sterile environment when inside the womb is so comfortable and warm, the birthed into this nasty white light and they spank you and put probes in your mouth. It’s about that — it’s about being introduced into this world. It’s not very comfortable.”

On “Son Así,” a false start and a wild, unrestrained riff kicks off an onslaught of insults comparing people to animals like worms and pigs. Garrote’s interjecting, maniacal laughs aside, overlooking the message is understandable; the track bounces around like a bluesy glam-rock nod, making it easily the loosest, least aggressive stretch of Acelera. The titular track, however, closes out the EP with a less-than-gentle nudge to rush, because la muerte le espera, reminding us that — oh yeah — this whole band is named for an archaic and abhorrent execution method.

But what La Maquinaria de Tortura does — Garrote specifically — isn’t expressly for shock value. Onstage, shirtless and wearing tights, sometimes rolling around in a bug-eyed frenzy, Garrote assures he’s being himself, fully.

“Everyone has fetishes. And not everyone likes to show them, so I think it’s a platform, being onstage and showing the little peeps that I think are kind of sexy, like wearing fishnets and stuff like that,” he says. “It’s real, because it’s me. A lot of people won’t show that side onstage. They’re completely the opposite of that, they try to glamorize themselves or be a product that it’s actually not them. So I try to be as honest with my things as I can be.”

What La Maquinaria de Tortura does — Garrote specifically — isn’t expressly for shock value.

It’s been a year since the recording of Acelera, helmed by Mario Negrón and Dario Morales of Casa Fantasmes, but stalled as the band struggled for a vinyl release. Ortega severely injured his foot at a local indie festival right after; then, of course, there’s the reality that self-releasing on vinyl is not a cheap investment.

Later, the lineup shifted twice as Napol and Terror left; it’s now settled with guitarist CJ Roman, of the freshly formed post-punk act Desahuciados, and drummer Miles Freeborn, the just-added Seattle transplant also putting in time with Los Pepiniyoz, in their place. Garrote, Ortega, who also plays in Ultraje, and Calzadilla, who makes beats as Merlon Warlock, are still on board, of course. They assured they’ll deliver the Acelera tracks — and then some — on vinyl soon, and that they plan to re-record with the new members.

So far, the new dynamic is working, and everyone’s getting on just fine. Roman, Garrote says, even got a “tingle” for his own onstage gear: Two days in, he brought along a newly procured ski mask.