Cheesesteaks are a big deal in Philly and as I understand it, there’s a ‘right way’ to go about ordering them. Firstly, you place your order for said cheesesteak with the cashier. Secondly you make your cheese selection and lastly you opt for or against the fried onions. The key and most crucial step though, is PLACE YOUR ORDER CONCISELY. Philly’s Die Choking approach their hypergrind in the same way – concisely. Back in 2014 I had the pleasure of reviewing the band’s debut EP. Clocking in at a little under six minutes, Die Choking was a great teaser, capturing a combination of the very early sound of Napalm Death and some Nails worship. Unfortunately Die Choking also highlighted Paul Herzog’s vocal shortcomings – something the band set out to improve upon in their follow-up EP II and improve they did. I didn’t get around to reviewing II but tracks like “Spent Fuel Pool” and “Civilian” are a bombastic precursor to what you can expect on Die Choking‘s debut full length. With their cut to the bone EPs carrying them thus far, can Die Choking‘s III deliver fourteen minutes of truly gripping grind? Time will tell.
“XI – Millirem” bursts into earshot fueled by the band’s earlier grinding influences while also offering a layer of blasting black metal and brutal death, bringing to mind Naglfar‘s “Black God Aftermath” peppered with Behemoth‘s conviction. The track feels more polished than Die Choking‘s earlier work and Herzog’s vocals are delivered in a way that makes them feel more seasoned and demanding of attention. It initially struck me that the vocals sounded a bit buried in the mix, but with repeat listens, the placement wore in and I actually enjoyed the engulfing and immersive effect it gave them. “XII – Dwell” and “XII – Death’s Waveform” follow on well from “XI – Millirem,” but it’s around “XIV – Bastard Of Hyperion” where things get really interesting.
Enhancing what Die Choking did on their EPs (particularly on “Unistall” and “Civilian,”) around the midpoint of “XIV – Bastard Of Hyperion,” Herzog’s vocals drop so low, becoming so guttural, that they convince you that you’re listening to something painfully removed from a funeral doom album. This mid-section is the turning point of III and the part I return to most often. “XV – The Prince Of Population” and “XVI – Leave It To Them” uphold the jarring changes, with “The Prince Of Population” going for warp speed, grinding black ‘n roll marred by spluttering shrieks, and “Leave It To Them” takes on the throttled component of Marduk‘s “Serpent Sermon.” The track begins with a deadly intro, there’s a few moments of mania harking back to “XI – Millirem” and its compatriots. They lurk only briefly before you’re bearing witness to more of Herzog’s funereal growls. There’s a lot happening here, I was left wondering whether I’d imagined that the offering was in fact only 1:13 in length.
The last high point is “XIX – Entropy Shrine” which is packed with weirded out, dizzying guitar work that feels like a mosh pit on attack dog mode. Snapping, engaging vocals contribute to the oppressive, chaotic feeling more so than an overt, all out vocal attack would have. As strangely as the track begins, so it ends with the voyeurism of an old Hitchcock film. And so the album closes, with two final tracks that don’t do anything to surpass the familiarity of the album’s openers.
III was recorded by Will Yip at Studio 4 in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania – known for his work with alternative rockers Circa Survive and hardcore band Blacklisted. The final master reminds me of a Nails album. I wasn’t hugely surprised then to find out then that Die Choking sanctioned Brad Boatright of Audiosiege (Integrity, From Ashes Rise and of course Nails) to master the album. A consistently good job was done by all arriving at a comfortably dynamic grind album.
Across the eleven tracks, III consists of a mix of good to great. Had Die Choking stuck to their past model and released “XIV – Bastard Of Hyperion,” “XV – The Prince Of Population,” “XVI – Leave It To Them,” “XVIII – Dead Figurehead” and “XIX – Entropy Shrine” as a warped little EP of attention grabbers, my final score would have been much higher. Unfortunately they did not and the great tracks are bookended by lesser ones. To III‘s advantage though, each song barely exceeds the minute mark which means they’re gone in a flash and more often than not, I still find myself hitting replay at the end of “XXI – Telos.”