Building on their early success with eight exciting new tracks, S.A.M. makes their claim to the modern rock throne with Choke Artist.
Making sense of rock ‘n’ roll right now is a lot like trying to resolve geopolitical tensions from your laptop; you might feel like you’re getting somewhere, but you’re probably not. Unfortunately, the reason for this is an ongoing battle between the old guard and the new generation. The people who feel they know what rock is supposed to be and those trying to push rock into new places cannot agree on anything. Every new act is either a retread of something that came before or an annoyingly grating take on something that has never found mainstream success. In other words, the genre is, in many ways, at an evolutionary standstill.
But if you look closely at the rock underground, you will find something startling. Away from the controversy and debate over what constitutes modern rock’ n roll, there is a growing base of musicians grinding it out in bars and clubs with fresh sounds and original ideas that could care less about mass exposure or success. These are the true rock stars, living on the edge of the genre while simultaneously being responsible for keeping it alive. They are largely unknown to the global music community, but now and then, one such act delivers a record that serves as a turning point for both their career and the genre as a whole.
S.A.M. burst onto the scene in 2019 with a slew of hard rock singles backed by support from the biggest names in the genre. The band was on the fast track to stardom in the months that followed. That is until the COVID-19 pandemic forced everyone off the road and back indoors. That abrupt change caused chaos for artists at every level, but it hurt newcomers in particular. Not only was their acceleration through the music hierarchy stalled, but there was no clear path to recovery. At least, not until the world decided to reopen.
We all know how the story goes by now. As the pandemic carried on, an increasing number of once-promising bands announced breakups or an extended hiatus when confronted with the need to support themselves. S.A.M. may have spent time quiet, but the band never lost sight of their goals. They understand that the pandemic would pass in time like all things in life. Their only mission was to be ready for that moment, so they spent the better part of the last two years crafting the material that would become their latest and greatest release to date, Choke Artist.
Featuring eight riotous rock and roll anthems, Choke Artist findsS.A.M. rising to the challenge presented to all artists trying to make it in 2022. In a world where people are more distracted than ever by a growing number of entertainment options, the only way anyone can get ahead is by grabbing our attention and holding it with something undeniably authentic. Human beings have become inundated with art over the last century that we’ve honed our ability to sift out the originals from the imitations. People can sense when they’re being sold inferior products, and they can feel that same lackluster quality in music. No amount of digital wizardry or notable guest appearances can hide an undercooked release. At least, not anymore.
Take “So Low,” for example. The second track off Choke Artist grapples with escaping a bad situation. The verses pull listeners into a world where the tension between the person you are and the person you need to become has reached a boiling point. You may feel as though you are breaking apart, but no matter how hard you try, you cannot let go of the person or thing that has destroyed your self-confidence. S.A.M. clarifies they’ve been in that position plenty of times, and they use the music to encourage positive change. The group stops short of telling people what to do or how to live. Instead, they create visceral listening experiences detailing real-life struggles while reinforcing the awesome power of the human spirit.
A similar message is found on “Way Out,” which addresses the feeling of realizing you’ve lost control. We all find ourselves in places we never thought we’d be, and S.A.M. looks to comfort those feeling scared or anxious with a song that seeks progress over a quick fix. We can’t undo the mistakes we’ve made, especially not overnight, but we can take steps daily to improve our lives. That isn’t the answer most want to hear, but it’s nonetheless the truth, and S.A.M. uses their music to support those doing the work.
After all, that’s their “thing.” Every successful group or artist has some “it” factor that draws people in and holds them close. For some, it’s the temporary escapism provided by sugary-sweet, high-energy material that lacks emotional depths. For S.A.M., it’s almost the complete opposite. S.A.M. revels in the fight for life. Rather than pretend things are supposed to be easy or simple, the band sees existence as a fight in the mud for a knife in the rain at night against yourself. They get that everyone dies, but very few live, and they see their role in the greater music conversation as that of a band that makes music to help people. Maybe it’s not the glitziest approach or the most monetarily rewarding. Still, it serves to create music that feels capable of much longer than the material we often hear on the radio today.
I won’t sit here and write as though S.A.M. is reinventing the wheel because they’re not. Making comparisons to other bands, including many S.A.M. have toured with, is easy when listening to Choke Artist. There are many bands making driving, vaguely uplifting rock music today. What separates Choke Artist and S.A.M. is the sincerity in its delivery. These are not tricksters looking to make a quick buck on disposable anthems about alpha male toughness or endurance. No, the men of S.A.M. appear to be driven by something else entirely. Call it altruism or optimism, but this is a band that believes in people’s ability to shape their reality, and they are doing their part to lift their fellow humans at a time when we need desperately need support.