I remember the first time I saw Choke live. I really had no idea what to think of them. Here was some band whose guitars seemed so muddled together while their vocalist sang at some unholy pitch that I ended up just staring at the bassist and wondering how he was able to pluck the strings with his ring finger so quickly. Finally, after about three more live shows and a couple years later, I decided to actually see how these guys were able to still be around and I was amazed. Choke is the best band that no one has ever heard of.
I loved There's a Story to This Moral. So now, three years later, Choke has outdone themselves with their new album Slow Fade Or: How I Learned to Question Infinity. The band still walks the very fine line between emo-influenced rock and hardcore-influenced punk. They still sound like a hodgepodge of sound thrown together on a whim and they still have that sound that makes them so difficult to get into. But for those that are able to come through all this, they are blessed with a solid effort.
Slow Fade Or: How I Learned to Question Infinity opens with "Breathing Won't Come Easy," and just from the opening riffs and drumming it sets the tone for what is to come. The guitars don't line up, the melodies are off beat and the vocals carry on their own tune that isn't backed by anything else in the band. Overall, the songs seem a bit more complex than previous efforts, especially the guitars. This is seen perfectly on the first track about halfway through when one guitar seems to devolve into complete chaos while the other carries the tune with the bass. And just as quickly as this happens, the ship rights itself and goes with a more normal form and melody - a common occurrence on the album.
Overall, the influences that blended together to make previous Choke albums are much more distinct this time around. "Static Remains" starts out with a rather light opening and by the time the chorus rolls around, they dive straight into a heavy, chunky sort of beat. A bridge that is once again suitable for emo rock and is quickly followed by eerie melodies that don't really fit together at all follows this.
The peak of the album is the six-minute plus "It's Not That I Don't Want To," which opens with haunting dual vocals that border more on talking over spacey guitars and light drumming. It is an amazing buildup to a heavy sound that blends many genres into one, peaking at a brief slow mosh riff. And just as soon as it peaks, Choke kills the noise and takes it back to the slow and light sound that the song started in. After another buildup, the band is back to thrashing the bars off the equalizer with an unbridled heaviness that is still rich in soft emotions.
There are some true gems on this album. With many of the songs over or almost at the five-minute mark, Choke has gone the distance on this one. Each song is a beautiful journey on its own while still lacking the musical chaos that is Choke. For fans of Choke, it is an excellent album, perhaps one of their best. For those that do not know of Choke, it is definitely not one of their most accessible albums. They are a tough band to get into and it is hard to slog through your first Choke album. You may not find the guitars going off on their own very pleasing, or the vocals may be too nasally and high pitched. If so, than that is your loss, because this is one of the more inventive albums to come out this year.
[originally written for readysteadyjedi.com]