Evangelos Vasilakos composed one of the ugliest noise assaults of 2021 with the debut Chestcrush record, Vdelygmia. Now, the multi-instrumentalist has a new band to enhance his vision thanks to the arrival of Australian drummer, Robin Stone (ex-The Amenta), and Finnish vocalist, Topias Jokipii, who replaces Thomas Blanc from the last record. The personnel changes cannot be the sole reason for the difference in sound on the latest offering, but Apechtheia is a major departure from the blackened-sludge grind of its predecessor. Indeed, you might question if this is the same artist.
The most notable change is the move towards longer compositions. Opener, ‘Misery. Decline. Death’, is a fine mix of bubbling detuned guitars and guttural vocal phrasings played through a pitch shifter effect. We hear no change of tempo until the two-minute mark when the drums embrace the skank beats, and the guitars add tremolo patterns to the deep chord wretches. Chestcrush have no concern for melody – their name should be a giveaway. The aim of Evangelos Vasilakos is to explore the darker recesses of doom and black metal through the prism of death metal, but puritans might lament how he does this with Meshuggah’s tunings as his secret weapon. Is this not a musical approach that reached saturation point five years ago?
Sporadic interferences of amp feedback aside, the mix on this record is much cleaner and sharper than Vdelygmia. ‘The Despiser’ squirms through the headphones with the plutonium poisoning of Deeds of Flesh but recalls the gory prostration of Exhumed in its delivery. Repetition is the main emphasis on Apechtheia, which makes it more stubborn than it should be. You’ll need to dig in for a longer journey than you anticipated to get the most out of it. The high points will reveal themselves the more you engage with the nastier edges of the record. Hierophant and Hissing are two similar artists that released challenging works this year which could garner better appreciation in a decade’s time. We might say the same of this one. The timbre is not just black and grey but will distinguish itself with shades of green if you listen hard enough.
Unfortunately, Evangelos feels the need to stretch all three songs over the eight-minute threshold on this EP. This would be more tolerable if he didn’t end it with ten minutes of dark ambient foreboding on ‘Repression’. The mood and aggression of the first two songs make this a puzzling composition to include as the grand finale. This is fine if you want an audio experiment to reproduce the agoraphobic feeling of being misaligned from the mundane forces of the outside world, but it achieves nothing beyond losing your interest after five minutes.
Apechtheia is an oppressive experience that demands your patience and does just enough to deserve it. What it portends for the future direction of the band is more of a worry. A heavy reliance on the resonance of the drop-tuned guitars at the expense of the rough blackened-sludge metal of the first album feels like a retrograde step for Chestcrush.
Release Date: 01/11/2022
Record Label: Self Released
Standout track: Misery. Decline. Death
Suggested Further Listening: Directional – Invasive EP (2022), Hierophant – Death Siege (2022), Hissing – Hypervirulence Architecture (2022)