Choking Victim - No Gods/No Managers (retro review) (Cover Artwork)

Choking Victim

No Gods/No Managers (retro review) (1999)

Hellcat Records

The first time I heard a Choking Victim song, I was blown away. Though it’s not on No Gods/No Managers, “Infested” (from the first Hellcat Records comp ) had me hooked immediately. So I went out and bought the one proper Choking Victim album. I vividly remember playing the CD as soon as I got back to the car. And when the opening bass line of 500 Channels came through the speakers, I knew that I didn’t even have to listen to the next 12 tracks to know that I was going to love this album.

Legend has it, the band had already broken up by the time the album was released (and maybe even before that), which has added to the luster over the years. While there were some raw CV recordings prior to 1999 and there were many incarnations with similar key players afterwards, No Gods/No Managers stands as the one true snapshot of the band. Mostly recorded on the Lower East Side of NYC, the album offered a truly unique take on music (the band called it Crack Rock Steady) and society, with songs about police brutality, corporate greed, and unjust wars that are just as relevant today as they were 20 years ago.

At a time when glossy ska started to flood the airwaves, Choking Victim provided a passionate alternative with the release of this record. It had been 10 years since Energy had been released and there were very few bands (if any) that had carried the torch that Operation Ivy lit. But No Gods/No Managers changed that. It was just as raw. Just as fierce. And just as catchy. Songs like “500 Channels”, “Crack Rock Steady” (check out the hidden track version at the end of the cd), and “Five-Finger Discount” were carried by ska chords and Jamaican rhythms, but maintained an edge that many ska bands were missing. Other tracks like “Suicide”, “In My Grave”, and “Money” were tinged with gloomier ska chords but were just as fiery, while some songs were soaked in punk rock with hints of thrash metal.

No Gods/No Managers was somewhat of an anomaly. While the album was obviously raw, it’s hard to ignore how tight the songs sounded considering it was recorded so quickly. And though the vocals were raspy and guttural, there were moments of melody that completely contradicted the mood of the songs. As a result, this was a record that kept you guessing, and that’s partially what makes it great. Even after listening to this countless times over the last 20 years, I still hear something new every single time.