REVIEW: Choke Chain – Imprisonment [EP/2015]


Artist: Choke Chain 

Album: Imprisonment – EP


Anxiety and loathing closing in all around you, constricting your mind like a snake. Frantically, your breath begins to quicken in a pointless attempt to counteract each  increasingly shallow gulp of air. Your pulse is skyrocketing and it feels as if your blood is thin, overloaded with adrenaline and nutrient-poor plasma. Your hands wrench and claw at your neck, but there is no loosening the chokehold Imprisonment has you in. The debut demo by Texas’ heavy-hardcore hellcats Choke Chain is a lesson in quick, pissed and raunchy aggression that slips around your head like a noose and digs into your windpipe, lacerating your skin and cutting the oxygen supply you need to stay conscious. Combining straightforward, bold hardcore instrumentation with low turnings and lurid, immensely angry lyrical content, Choke Chain claw at the listener’s ears and constrict their larynx, crushing them with no-holds-barred Texan fury.

What Choke Chain lack in musical subtlety they make up for in scathing fury and catchy, crushing songwriting. These Lonestar lunatics slam the listener’s head into the pavement with each punishing riff and languishing drum pattern. Percussionist Zach Stacy whales away on his kit with such ferocity it’s a wonder he didn’t crack his snare drum in half. Each resounding crack contrasts brilliantly with his plodding, thick kick drum—giving tracks like “Fading Fast” a solid, thick heartbeat at the core of the band’s quick transitions and cantankerous breakdowns. Stacy’s percussion is already immense, but after adding grooves from Aaron Curl’s bass, the quartet have a low end that could punch through ten brick walls with more enthusiasm than the Kool Aid Man. “Probable Cause” is an excellent example, highlighting the duo’s magnificent, murderous low-end dynamic that makes each breakdown and slam hit like a shotgun to the chest. However, even with Stacy’s steamrolling percussion and Curl’s galloping bass, Choke Chain’s instrumentation gains even more jarring brutality from the riffs and chugs of guitarist Drew Foster. Foster gives Imprisonment its edge–its relentless, ravenous appetite that devours the listener’s sanity. He can be found laying down devastating, catchy riffs atop Stacy and Curl’s foundation—especially on “Attitude Adjustment” and “Probable Cause”—that snare themselves in the listener’s head for days. However, during the immense, earth-quaking slams throughout “Temper Control,” he syncopates marvelously with Stacy, resulting in an all-out attack on the listener that will melt their eardrums in milliseconds.

Choke Chain’s bare-bones hardcore instrumentation is a risky move. Many bands who adhere to a more “traditional” hardcore dynamic often find themselves with tracks that feel empty—given that their vocalist simply isn’t up to the task of adding enough to each track to truly “fill it out.” However, Choke Chain’s Anthony Alexander (yes, you HAVE heard of him before) encounters no such problem. Alexander’s work throughout Imprisonment is a picture-perfect display of poignant heavy-hardcore bitterness that hasn’t been so excellently executed since Knocked Loose’s Bryan Garris jumped into the spotlight. Alexander combines catchy vocal patterns and creative, intimate lyrics that fans of heavy music can relate to in order to give Imprisonment an insidious, immense vocal dynamic that has no problem soaring atop the band’s minimal, yet mammoth instrumental onslaught. “Fading Fast” sees Alexander at his catchiest, while “Probable Cause” is a gem—even before Andrew Hileman’s huge vocal appearance.

Even in spite of Imprisonment’s brief run time and Choke Chain’s belligerent style of bold-faced brutality, this quartet have succeeded in making a memorable, mammoth-sized debut demo that could turn the Taj Mahal into a terror-filled mosh-maelstrom the likes of which the world has never seen. Alexander cashes in his worth as an established an excellent, experienced heavy music vocalist and takes the reigns, leading the brutal blitzkrieg that is Choke Chain right into the listener’s ears. Ten minutes of uncompromising fury, Imprisonment sounds almost as if Pop Culture gained about fifty pounds and hit puberty—as Alexander’s gruff shouts grate the listener’s sanity like cheese, while the remainder of the band’s instrumentation is somewhat similar to Knocked Loose’s lurid amalgam of heavy, slamming beatdown and traditional hardcore. The result is remarkable: an EP whose only fault is that there simply isn’t enough of it to go around.

Fans of raw, raunchy heavy hardcore rejoice: Choke Chain are here to let the hounds of hardcore loose from their long, lawful leash. Tearing into the listener’s head like a starved Rottweiler, Imprisonment is the sound of the world’s most fearsome criminals breaking out of prison and into your brain.



For Fans Of: Knocked Loose, Damaged Goods, Desolated, Backtrack, BENCHPRESS

By: Connor Welsh