Choking Victim is the New York hardcore punk/ska band that took a less serious approach to their lyrical style, but an intense approach to their music. Their music combines all the quick and rapid movements of hardcore music, the gentle swinging Caribbean sounds of reggae music, and a blast from one of the most Anti-American sounding group of youths. Together, Choking Victim explains the power struggle in America, the foreign policy of America, and how the population is really a choking victim at ropes end.
No Gods / No Managers begins with “500 Channels,” a track that blends ripping bass lines and an urgent tempo. Choking Victim is able to fly through the chorus, riffs, and grooves with seamless ease. Their whole attitude and anger toward “Never being bullied into a corner,” and being able to
“Live above the fucking law,” gives off this outstanding message of anarchy and opposing everything that you are taught. Choking Victim also displays some more of the comedic lyrics that the band was known for, “And when there is no hope, I smoke some crack, I’ll shoot some dope.” It takes several listens to really take in everything that Scott “STZA” Sturgeon is practically shouting over the rest of the band.
The following track “In Hell,” is a rapid fire rush that sounds more like a punk song than anything. The percussion played by Skwert is a cranked up offensive of drum rolls and crashing cymbals. “In Hell” takes no breaks from the action and the entire track has this rushed feeling. This could also be said for the majority of the near 42-minute ska adventure.
“Crack Rock Steady” trails behind and is one of the more “radio-friendly” sounding tracks with an almost faster reggae instrumental and what resembles kettle drums. The rest of the track is a feel-good journey with lyrics like “Are you ready to stop the rotten blue menace? Let’s go kill us a cop,” and “It doesn’t matter the color of your skin. As long as you are not scandalous, commit no sin to me, or my tribe.” No Gods / No Managers is more of a discussion on grouping together to realize the injustice in the world and grouping together to come to one common goal.
Choking Victim’s goal could be laid inside the track “Suicide (A Better Way).” The track opens with a slick bassline before launching into another sprint of an instrumental with cascading guitar from both STZA and Erza Kire, vocals and screams from bass player Shayne Webb, and Skwert’s agitated drum fills. The track feels like a lightning bolt full of energy and perfectly leads into the next track, “In My Grave.”
This track again follows the quick ska style but eventually launches into these single instrument breakdowns where the individual instrumentalists can really breakthrough and shine. Skwert begins the first breakdown and he seems to play the drums like a lead instrument. He keeps the flow of the track and is able to keep everything progressively engaging and interesting for the listener. Choking Victim uses his talent as a way to push the tempo and keep the instrumentals feeling powerful and primarily rushed.
The following track is “Fucked Reality” which discusses such topics as “Jesus on the Cross, there are no idols, no heroes in a world of death, and no winners in this fucked reality.” STZA has such a substantial voice and while his lyrics are in much of the time a joking manner, he still has a point in his message. Choking Victim stands behind this anti-government and anti-religion platform and the intermissions from Political Scientist, Economist, and Historian, Michael Parenti only furthers their message through another person’s support.
Parenti starts “Money” off with a topic discussion of “The function of Police,” and how they are working for “social control” and “property protection” rather than protection of the people. Choking Victim then launches into one of their fastest and most aggressive songs on No Gods / No Managers. Every second of this song is a thrash metal mosh-pit that finally slows down to let the next track flood into frame.
“Hate Yer State” openings with yet another sample, this time coming from Choking Victim themselves explaining, “You think your alive motherfucker. You’re just the walking fucking dead, you’re fucking sheep, stepping on my back to stay alive. West coast, East Coast, your all bunch of fucking fools. You and the rest of this greedy fucking world. Kill yourself, stay in school, say no to drugs and oh yeah hail Satan…Goodnight boys and girls… pleasant dreams.” This is a sample only found on the CD release of No Gods / No Managers, the 7” explains “Sometimes I get so straight edge. I sit in a room and cry. A real dark room man… Feelings and shit man. Getting hurt. Then I masturbate and everything’s so much fucking better.” The track then launches into this assault of drum rolls and guitar riffs before finally coming into a more-ska like sound. STZA screams about being the “Choking Victim” in American society, and all the repercussions faced by the American citizens.
The following track, “Fuck America” begins with Parenti again talking of American foreign policy, and how the American citizens are the victims and not the victimizers. The track opens with growling vocals and riffs that sound something similar to a Suicidal Tendencies track. There is also these sections of bouncing ska music that keeps the track feeling varied and fresh, once the chorus kicks in however, the track’s tone completely changes. The lines “Fuck America” are chanted and the track seamlessly starts into “War Story.”
“War Story” is this glorious near ballad sounding track at its first half, but then slowly picks up into this punk rock hype-fest. The guitars slowly change from speedy punk riffs to a twinkling key change, and the rest of the band lets the guitar lead primarily. There is still a heavy presence of Skwert and his wick drumming skills, and the finale of the track has a screaming match before launching into the very melodic and cheerful track “Five-Finger Discount.”
This track starts with this slick bass line before launching into the core of the track. When the whole band kicks in to sing the chorus it is actually quite outstanding and makes you forget that it is a track all about shoplifting, “I want to see, what’s on sale, what’s for free.” The track is more of a party-rock song and sounds nothing like Choking Victim until the tracks end where the vocals and drums become much darker and more aggressive.
The next track then follows Parenti’s opinion on the Free Market System, and how many other countries are “invaded to send a message.” “Praise To The Sinners” features a flamenco guitar played by Tommy Trujillo, who is able to make an interesting change to the primarily electric sound of Choking Victim. This track only acts as an interlude to “Living The Laws” which is the final track on No Gods / No Managers.
“Living The Laws” is the most hardcore sounding track on all of No Gods / No Mangers and uses more growl like vocals rather than the usual singing from STZA. There are some sweet bass lines from Webb and the whole track then dissolves into this small breakdown where the vocals are silenced and it almost sounds like a sample. It was one of the highlights of “Living The Laws” as it allows the track to take a step back and reconfigure from the destruction that plagues most of Choking Victim’s sound. The lyrics are still as daunting as ever “Beside myself, I’m all alone… The lights are on, but no one’s home. There is also a bonus to the end of this track where a quote from the movie Mother Night is played stating, “They say a hanging man hears glorious music, I wonder what it sounds like.”
There is also another bonus tied to the track “Living The Laws,” a ska and slowed version of “Crack Rock Steady.” The track is a nice mix to the mostly metal and punk sound of Choking Victim. The band parted ways the day of the recording of No Gods / No Managers, they had recorded enough material to make one complete album, and unfortunately it was the last of Choking Victim’s run. Past members went on to form Leftöver Crack, leaving Choking Victim to live on through time as a testament to the American Government and to punk music everywhere.