Review by Ellis Heasley
Chestcrush – Vdelygmia
Blackened Deathgrind from Edinburgh, UK
Releases July 14th
You won’t find many records nastier than Vdelygmia by Chestcrush. With a title meaning “abomination, filth and repulsion of extreme levels”, and a stated focus on “total sonic annihilation”, that’s not a huge surprise. The debut full-length from the solo project of the Greek-born and Edinburgh-based musician Evangelos Vasilakos sees him draw inspiration from both the personal and the political to conjure an oppressively heavy mix of blackened death metal, grindcore and sludge.
The atmosphere is thick and dark from the very beginning of Vdelygmia. Opener “The Digester” sets the scene with ominous dissonant strings, creeping whispers and noise which evoke the same kind of unsettling despair one might feel when watching a film like Midsommar or Hereditary. Eventually, this erupts into crushing guitars and drums followed by a burst of manic blast beats and distant blood-curdling screams. There’s no real let-up from here, with the record making for just under 29 minutes of relentlessly sadistic sonic violence. In terms of comparison points, Full Of Hell is a great shout, as is that excellent Knoll record from earlier this year to an extent.
While Vasilakos refers to Chestcrush as a solo project, that could be a little misleading. He actually gets some help from vocalist Thomas Blanc and drummer Krzysztof Klingbein. We meet the former of these properly on the album’s second track “Different Shepherd Same Sheep”. Here, he provides a vicious combination of stomach-churning gutturals and ear-piercing fry screams, even descending to straight-up pig squeals at one point. Blanc remains a versatile and capable presence throughout the record, and while it’s all incredibly harsh, it does add a welcome touch of variation to an album this consistently cruel. Klingbein, who has worked with a host of impressive names including Vader and Hate, is great too. His command of the album’s requisite blast beats is impeccable, and his double kick work is often jaw-droppingly fast. He’s also more than capable of bringing heft and weight to the record’s stompier and riffier sections, with seventh track “Skullcrush” being a prime example.
To be honest, there aren’t any particularly stand-out tracks on Vdelygmia. Each song seems to hit as hard as every other, with Vasilakos filling them all with crushing riffs and plenty of black metal style tremolo-picking. The production, handled by Ben Jones, does exactly what it needs to, pressing down on the listener with a consistent suffocating weight. If there is a criticism, it’s probably that this album could benefit from a touch more dynamic variation, but then again that doesn’t really seem like the intention.
At the end of the day, if you’ve come to a record like this looking for a good time, you’ve probably got the wrong idea. Vdelygmia is utterly joyless, with Chestcrush showing practically zero interest in anything resembling a melody or hook. This makes the record’s relatively short runtime an absolute essential, as anything longer would almost certainly prove too much and perhaps even dull the album’s ferocity. Instead, as album closer “Vaptizetai O Doulos” wraps things up with more disturbing noise, listeners will no doubt still be reeling from an utterly merciless and monstrous nine tracks.