By CHRISTIAN CHAPPAROSA
One of the most influential math rock bands, “Chon,” is a four-person group consisting of both Mario Camarena and Erick Hansel as the lead guitarists, Nathan Camarena as the drummer, and Esiah Camarena as the bassist (although there have been different bassists throughout the years of their tours). The band started small. As younger adolescents, Mario and Erick were already extremely talented guitarists with bright futures ahead of them. This was shown beautifully with their small demo EP in 2008. They decided they wanted to do live shows, so Mario had Esiah (his brother) on board, and also taught 11-year-old Nathan (little brother) how to play drums. With everything all together, the band is official.
2008 Demo EP:
-Across The Spectrum
-Mountains of Creation
This short EP shed light on Mario and Erick’s song-composing skills at a young age. Each song displays absurd and complex riffage. One could also hear how much another math rock band, “The Fall of Troy,” influenced the band’s sound in terms of guitar tone and riff ideas. As much as I enjoy each song from this sort of EP, a particular piece stands out between the four songs. Temporarily Destabilized has incredibly catchy rhythms and jazzy solos that will stay in your head for weeks. It’s also more significant in length and progresses more than any other song within the band’s whole discography. Overall an album that stands out and gets better every listen.
Releases created before or after the 2008 EP:
-The Perfect Pillow
These releases were used regularly during the band’s live sets between 2009-2013. Newborn Sun would come to have a re-recording in their 2013 album, “Newborn Sun,” and The Perfect Pillow getting a re-recording in their 2015 album, “Grow.” I thought this era of Chon was their accumulation of all of their influences, mixed with finger breaking arpeggios and interesting solos. Although these songs have no right being as good as they are, this mesh isn’t quite what I’d define for the band as a whole, since I’d regard their first 8 songs as “refreshers for those that are tired of listening to metal.”
2013 Newborn Sun:
With this next EP, Chon still keeps their metal influence but makes a more significant push for melodies and atmosphere with short and sweet songs for “Potion” and “Frosting.” It is also home to their most iconic piece, “Bubble Dream,” which put them on the map and a staple for the math and prog community as a whole.. Also, “Dew” has a beautiful ethereal solo, and I think everyone should listen to this song. It shows how fast Mario and Erick have improved over the past few years.
2014 Woohoo! EP:
With each new release, Chon continues evolving their music and is not afraid to take risks. When I first listened to this EP, I wouldn’t say I was much of a fan then. But over the years, I became a little upset that I never listened to this small album as much as their other works. This EP is home to an interesting batch of songs, with only pure acoustic guitar on Super Potion written by Erick and Dust by Mario. Not only this, “Ecco” would be the band’s first song to have vocals sung by their bassist at the time, Drew Palisek. All and all, this EP has exciting ideas, especially with how “Knot” and “Sketch” have such groovy ending riffs and the beautiful melodies within “Suda.”
2015 Grow(Band’s first official album):
-Book (Feat. Matt Garstka)
-Echo (re-recording of Ecco)
-But (Feat. Matt Garstka)
After years of growing popularity, Chon was able to sign with a record label, Sumerian Records, and debut their first official album, fully licensed. At the time of the release, there were mixed opinions regarding the album, as almost half of it was re-recorded songs. But after time, it was much more appreciated; since this was the band’s first full album, they needed to showcase some of their best stuff to reach out to people newer to the band and the genre itself. But even with the convoluted reasonings, I believe this is the band’s holy grail album. “Story” and “Splash” structure the vibe you feel while listening to this masterpiece. “Can’t Wait” would be the crowd pleaser among the community, and “Fall” is, in my opinion, a perfect song from beginning to end. This album also features guest artist, well-renowned drummer, “Matt Garstka,” from the prog-metal band, “Animals as leaders.” The two songs featuring him really do mesh well with Mario and Erick’s writing. I forgot to mention that the band’s drummer, Nathan, doesn’t yet write any of their drum tracks, as his drum mentor, Brian Evans, is the one pulling the strings.
2017 Homey Album:
-Berry Streets (Feat. GoYama)
-Nayhoo (Feat. Lophiile, Masego)
-Here and There
-Feel This Way (Feat. Giraffage)
-Glitch (Feat. ROM)
For Chon’s second album, they’ve decided to take even bigger risks and experiment with not only their sound but do collaboration pieces with other artists. They’re using more post-processing, different balances and effects within their songs while still incorporating their roots as a math-rock band. I am a little on the fence with this album as a whole. I didn’t really enjoy the featured artists’ songs, as I don’t think the songs are nearly as catchy or memorable as their other tracks. This also goes for the ones they did create as only the band, with the exception of “Waterslide,” and “Sleepy Tea,” as they are the face of the album. I will say I’m never not impressed by how the band can make such complex and virtuosic riffs that flow so well within each of their songs.
2019 CHON Self-Titled Album:
With the third and, as of currently, the band’s final album, we hit a close. In retrospect, I’m happy that this album wasn’t my introduction to Chon. As a listener since “Grow,” you feel the total weight of each song, seeing how far the band’s come. “Ghost” was probably the best choice to use for the first track. It was a hopeful introduction into the rest of the album, with Mario and Erick completely shredding on their guitars. Despite the more simplistic melodies, Chon can really incorporate intense riffs and drum fills together without breaking the song’s initial flow. With regards to “Spike,” this song was definitely written as a callback to their earlier works, literally being able to hear the main theme of “Bubble Dream” at the end of the track. And the album’s final song, “Peace” completely subverts your expectations. Every track from this album has such distinctness, being able to tell one from the other. In conclusion, Chon has never made a bad song, but I just didn’t personally enjoy this album as much as I did with their other works; it all seemed just a little surreal that this would possibly be their last album they’d make.