EP Review: Chestcrush – “Apechtheia” (Blackened Death Metal)

Written by Kep


Chestcrush – Apechtheia
> Blackened death metal
> Scotland, UK
> Releasing November 1
> Independent/self-release

Okay folks, show of hands: how many of you have heard Chestcrush’s 2021 opus Vdelygmia? If your hand is down then you need to stop reading, go listen to it, and come back when you’re done, because it’s the sort of mercilessly nihilistic filth that leaves you feeling like you’re covered in a caked-on layer of suffocating grime made of the ashes of the things you love. Our own Ellis Heasley called it “utterly joyless” and said “if you’ve come to a record like this looking for a good time, you’ve probably got the wrong idea” in his 8/10 review (from back when we scored albums). 

(Editor’s note: this EP releases on November 1, and as of publishing isn’t on Bandcamp. We’ll update this review with a link once it’s up.)

Hideously destructive violence in auditory form is very much up my alley, so you can bet I adored Vdelygmia, and you can be even more sure that my eyes bugged out when a fresh Chestcrush EP showed up in my promo inbox. Apechtheia will be out on November 1st, and it’s fucking monstrous. 

This filth-spattered project plays a brand of devastating grind-tinged blackened death that reads pitch black and smothering at every turn. Theirs is the sound of an oppressive, pervasive nightmare in which a hulking demon hunts you in the darkened corridors of your own home, twisted face grinning malevolently as it drags a chunk of bloodstained concrete, your inevitable end as a pile of gore beneath that slab an inescapable conclusion. There is no hope, there is no light, and there is no escape in Chestcrush’s world. There is only the horrifying and ugly, both aesthetically and spiritually. 

Apechtheia comprises three tracks, and runs to 28 minutes—the same length as their previous LP. Its scope, though, is noticeably different than that of Vdelygmia, which consisted of nine focused songs, none longer than a bit over four minutes. This EP moves in a direction that reminds me a bit of last year’s Defacement self-titled, in that it stretches a dissonant, harshly hypnotic ugliness out over lengthier tracks that are grueling listens, and then offers a sort of ambient cleanse. Make no mistake, musically much is the same—the torturous grinding death and churning tremolo-picked lines still carry things and the vocals are as grisly as ever—but there’s a much more expansive and unhurried feel to this, and while Vdelygmia at times felt frenetic and chaotic, Apechtheia’s punishment is much more deliberate. It’s all the more horrifying for it, too. 

Album art by PLA.G.U.E

“Misery. Decline. Death” is downright murderous, a gargantuan slab of thick, evil tremolos juxtaposed against enormous stomping passages heavy enough to break down brick walls. It’s mean, mean stuff; they feature a vicious repeated descending tritone figure in those long tremolos that reminds me of “Beneath Bedlam” from last year’s Feculent EP, at least in spirit. When the song blasts forward in its final quarter it’s like facing down a demon bear running full bore, evil lines moving slowly within the faster galloping texture as understated omens of an obviously brutal end. “The Despiser” lumbers hideously, driven by lightning-fast rolling double bass and popping snare. Portions of this track are more hypnotic and static than the opener, while other passages are pure skullcrushing slaughter; Chestcrush does a great job of keeping the songs distinct from one another.  This second track draws to a close in a much more downcast way, with darkly inward-facing contemplation and a minute’s worth of noise, which sets the stage for the EP’s wild card of a closer.  

“Repression” is the real experiment here: it’s a dark ambient soundscape, over ten minutes long, brooding and anxiously troubling in its foreboding calm. The entirety of the experience is built atop a single deep reverberating low rumble of noise that creates a buzzing bed of sound, atop which bits of other noise and outbursts of free-form nonstandard percussion jar and clang. It feels a bit improvisational, but the interjections of percussive clatter have a definite rhythm to them, and I suspect there’s more specific design at work than the ear first detects. Is “Repression” successful? Overall, I’d say yes, as it’s persistent in its disquieting effect and its ominously oppressive “calm”, but I think it might be a bit too long to keep listeners interested. I know my mind wanders quite a bit in the final few minutes, and that’s not an optimal way to end a release.

The EP sounds great from a production standpoint, and the individual performers all impress. Multi-instrumentalist Evangelos Vasilakos (also of death metal project Caustic Phlegm) and new vocalist Topias Jokipii make a fearsome pair and are clearly in sync conceptually across the release. The drums are courtesy of the always-busy Robin Stone, and are as pinpoint accurate and punchy as you’d expect. The growth here is promising; Apechtheia features more mature songwriting than Vdelygmia, and that bodes super well for whenever we get another full-length. 

THE BOTTOM LINE

Chestcrush’s sophomore release is a good one, and feels like a true progression from their debut. Come for the suffocating miasma of hideous darkness in the first two tracks, stay for the uneasy existential introspection of the third, and look forward to LP 2 at some point in the future.