Chepang - Lathi Charge Review

Over the summer I received a message on Facebook from a man in New York City who was wondering if I could set up a show in Philadelphia for his band. I had been getting a fair amount of these messages so I asked for a link to their Bandcamp to determine whether they would be worth my time. Alas, I discovered that there was only one song available for streaming on their site as their debut album wouldn’t be released for a few more weeks. I listened to the one song and though I thought it was pretty good, I figured it wouldn’t be worth the utter hassle of booking a grindcore show in a Philly basement just for a band who may or may not suck.

Several months later all I can say is: BIG. MISTAKE.

The guy who had been messaging me was the guitarist of Chepang, a Grindcore band originally from Nepal who had moved to New York City to further the career of their musical project. And what a musical project it is. A lot of attention has been paid to their debut EP Lathi Charge from Nerve Altar records, with much of it focusing on their Nepalese roots and their sociopolitical lyrics. However, I just want to take a minute to describe how unique this band’s music is.

First off, they have two drummers, a fact I didn’t even realize until my friend urged me to watch live videos of their performances on youtube. And the crazy thing is, those two drummers are for the most part playing the same thing! Only really during the drum fills does the listener even get a hint of multi-layered polyrhythms. My theory is that the band utilizes multiple percussionists not in the way Slipknot does by layering them on top of each other, but the way Judas Priest did back in the 1980’s with their “twin-guitar” sound, that is, two guitars playing mostly the same parts to help imbue their music with a fullness that a single guitar couldn’t provide.

The rest of the band’s sound is just as unique. As an amateur music reviewer, and someone who listens to a tremendous amount of Grindcore, the word that kept popping into my head while listening to this album was “refreshing.” 

There’s really nothing on this album that I could describe as being “cliché” or “derivative.” I think part of this is that the guitar work draws inspiration from some of the more creative and angular corners of the grindcore universe, bands like Discordance Axis, Noisear and Maruta. There are a lot of moments here that remind me of Full of Hell’s collaboration with Merzbow from last year, but done in a nimble and dynamic fashion. The music itself is constantly shifting while still being able to create some very memorable sections, which I attribute to there lack of a bass player. That’s right, this band has two drummers, one guitarist and one vocalist, and yet they have one of the fullest sounding bands I have heard in a long while.

How fucking grindcore is that?

As for the lyrics and samples, I honestly appreciate that they choose to “sing” in their native language. But this being grindcore and me not being a big lyrics guy, I’m not gonna look up the translations for any of them. Why not leave a little mystery to it? I will say that the vocals are pretty spot on, nothing too ground breaking, but the dynamics are there, especially the lower grunts which really help accent some of the heavier parts.

Lathi Charge Tracklist:
1. Gaida Taskar 01:45
2. Kathe-Mandu 01:36
3. Chihan Ki Pari 01:05
4. Chepang Basti 02:17
5. Bidhwa Ko Charam Sukha 00:44
6. Chutkeli 01:04
7. Untitled (Purano Haddi) 01:16
8. Kancho Ko Badla 02:03

This album is probably the best start-to-finish Grindcore record of the year. It ends perfectly with closing track “Kancho Ko Badla,”an otherworldly, crushing Neanderthal inflected with Maruta dystopianism. It leaves you satisfied yet wanting more; and hopefully there will be plenty more to come.

For more on Chepang, check out their social media below!

Chepang: Facebook // Bandcamp