Published Nov 02, 2016After taking a four-year hiatus to resolve personal struggles with addiction and health, Soft Kill's third LP, Choke, doesn't stray far from the band's gloomy wheelhouse. They do an impressive job of weaving sounds into a lush, encompassing atmosphere, but in many ways, Choke feels like a revival of a revival.
Despite being released on acclaimed metal label Profound Lore, this record doesn't feel as heavy or striking as early Soft Kill tracks like "Death in the Family." Choke instead favours cool shades of ambience and broad strokes of sonic texturing. Songs are relatively lengthy, most clocking in around five minutes, and feature little variation in structure. Most of the intrigue comes from the subtle rearranging of layers and harmonies. Tobias V.H.'s vocals are nestled into a reverb-soaked pocket of the mix, making it difficult to pick out his lyrics, and when the Chameleons' Mark Burgess appears as a feature on "On the Inside," it's almost impossible to differentiate his moaning baritone from V.H.'s.
At its best, Choke offers fleeting moments of beauty that are dissolved into the swirl of melancholy as quickly as they appear. The shimmering guitar lines and staccato drumming on "I'm Beside You" bring to mind early Explosions in the Sky, "Wake Up" features a pretty acoustic guitar coda and the soaring vocals on "Lost" push towards something like a crescendo. There is plenty of nuance to explore within Choke's 43 minutes, if one can first get acclimatized to its dreary atmosphere. (Profound Lore)