Hailing out of South-West Germany, Choking On Illusions is a band which looks like they are about to be on the receiving end of an enthusiastic roar of attention. The reason being their new album Rest/less; a beast of a melodic hardcore incitement which is as fiercely confrontational and emotionally voracious as it is inventively compelling. On first listen, it is not one which instantly leaps from the crowd though it certainly is a more riveting and fascinating encounter than most, but over time it reveals an imagination and craft which leaves ears and attention gripped. You would still not say that the second full-length from the Saarbrücken quintet is going to turn the hardcore scene on its head, but it definitely gives it an exciting proposal to chew over.
Formed in 2008, Choking On Illusions has frequently awoken keen and increasing interest in their presence; a self-titled EP in the following year starting the growth which was backed and nurtured further by a two track demo in 2010 and the band’s keenly supported live presence. It has been from the current line-up’s coming together a year later though that the band and their sound really hit its stride, as established by their well-received debut album Guide me home in the summer of 2012. Alongside all these moments the band has similarly drawn great praise and following through shows with the likes of Stick to your Guns, Comeback Kid, Terror, Evergreen Terrace, Hundredth, Counterparts, and La Dispute amongst a great many, as well as tours with The Green River Burial, Wasted Bullet, Chronograph, and Seasons in Wreckage. It all only reinforced and enriched their emergence in the hardcore scene. Now the band is lining up to burst into the broadest spotlights with their Bastardized Recordings released Rest/less, and given the time and focus it needs and deserves, it would be hard to expect anything but further potent success.
The opening Intro is a decent enough emotional scene setter, guitars melodically eloquent within a heavily brooding atmosphere whilst leading ears and imagination into the jaws of the following album title track. The second track bursts into life with ravenous rhythms and fiery riffs, each intensifying as the vocals of Mario Strasser begin their agreeable roar and the guitars of Jannik Aulenbacher and Maciej Spiczak align in a tempting mix of caustic riffery and sonic enterprise. It is when singer and melodies really erupt in an infectious and lively embrace that the song truly comes alive, their brief expulsion of revelry infecting the subsequent antagonistic side of the song which too develops an intriguing mix of catchiness and emotional provocation. It is a great start to the release, and like the album, it takes time to explore all its twists and depths, though its appeal and appetite sparking potency is swift.
The following Sleepwalker explodes in a creative and impassioned tirade you expect to hear in a hardcore based offering, continuing to feed with satisfaction those thoughts but twisting them into fresh endeavour through the persistently thoughtful and skilled ideation of the guitars. As in its predecessor though, there is a particular moment where the good song ignites into something greater, and here it is the lull in the sonic tempest where the bass of Christian Pontes takes over with a richly carnivorous bass tone matched in intimidation by the muscular swings of drummer Dustin Ueckert. It is a mere moment in the passage of the track but again seems to instil a new attitude and impact into the following adventure and passion of the proposition.
Both Left Unsaid and 13 rage and bellow with explosive and intriguing creativity, the first punctuated by the thickest rhythmic jabs yet on the album but tempered by a tantalising flame of impressive vocal harmonies and guitar crafted melodic acidity. The song continues to be unpredictable and enthralling, a slip into an acoustic landscape bewitching in company with calm and captivating clean vocals. Its heart felt and raw emotion though is soon back filling the senses, and again it is fair to say this also seems to return with a new air and vitality in its angst and sound. It is of course all sparked by the band’s dramatic adventure in songwriting and sound, with these moments seeded in a strong array of flavours outside of hardcore. They are essences not always apparent at the start of songs but emerging impressively throughout and something the band will hopefully utilise even more ahead as this is when Choking On Illusions impressively breaks free of any formulaic hardcore restraints and expectations. The song’s successor is the same, spinning a recognisable initial weave of sound and aggression built on open invention before sculpting a predatory net of rhythms and sonic imagination. It is the most straight forward song on the album in many ways but when relaxing into a smouldering embrace of warm melodies and intimate vocals to again cast a new light on its body and heart.
The disorientating dazzle of guitar and rhythms at its start sets Borderlines off in fine style and initially it is a shame it is not a constant incitement throughout the excellent track, the band preferring to unleash it in bursts amongst the muscular antagonism of the song. The truth is the band get it right, its intermittent diversity makes for thrilling eruptions of bedlam in the ferocious roar of the song and the subsequent melodic poetry charming from its heart. The song is superb, whilst the album simply gets stronger and more exciting with every offering.
The peaceful radiance of Interlude allows a breath next, its brief instrumental a classic hug of keys but as the intro, embraced by a more and increasingly turbulent ambience. Its beauty makes way for the fiery energy and intensity of Broken Song, a blaze of an encounter with deep anxiousness to its air and hostile emotion fuelling its fury. It is another which simply grows in weight and persuasion as it reveals more invention and unpredictable ideation once established in the ears; post and melodic hardcore colouring its ire as forcibly as a punk viciousness.
A new peak is set with the hellacious charge and presence of Death Waltz next, the track a thunderous predator of the senses unafraid to draw on noise rock and metallic essences to ignite its creative battlefield. Complete with soaring harmonies and sonic intricacies, the song is a raucous anthem and impassioned croon simultaneously, and quite sensational in its distorted and scuzz lit brilliance giving next up L.O.V.E. a hard task to emulate. It gives a mighty effort though with a bass sound from Pontes which is raw and carnal in touch, whilst a blistering furnace of sonic rapacity and vocal incitement treats the senses. It also has that fresh onslaught of punk hostility to it which seeps into the album’s latter tracks to enjoyable success.
Closing track Baptism – Funeral enters on a rhythmic enticement from Ueckert which alone secures hungry attention, and continues to drive and ignite the solemn and melancholic heart of the increasingly ferocious encounter. It is a mighty end to an outstanding release, one sure to put Choking On Illusions on the widest hardcore map and suggesting potential of greater things yet to come, though more of the same to be fair would not be too disappointing either.
Rest/less is available from March 27th via Bastardized Recordings @ http://shop.bastardizedrecordings.de/product_info.php?products_id=2411
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