Review Summary: Nepalese grind that goes like shit off a shovel.
A 'lathi charge', as label Nerve Altar elucidate on their Bandcamp, is the Nepalese term for the brutal baton exercise used by riot police to scatter protesting crowds. Despite sitting in a potentially peaceful location surrounded by the Himalayas, it only takes a Google search to realise that violent riots are commonplace in the central Asian nation; unrest that has caused many to flee to other lands. Chepang, a grindcore group now based in New York, are five such immigrants, and their debut release channels as much of this uneasy political climate into their work as possible - with electrifying results.
Chepang’s brand of ‘immigrindcore’ (as they themselves have named it) is an entertaining, furious blend of Discordance Axis-esque grindcore and powerviolence, which has the satisfying dual effect of making Lathi Charge
not only intense, but surprisingly easy to bob along with. ‘Chutkeli’ and ‘Untitled (Purano Haddi)’ form a double whammy that showcase this best, flipping between east-coast hardcore chugs and drumskin-breaking grind in deliciously timed waves. ‘Chihan Ki Pari’’s macabre guitar line and the doomy riff that characterises the first half of the subsequent ‘Chepang Basti’ add some controlled colour to the album; colour which leads the listener wide-eyed into a curbstomp comprising of the latter's second half and 44 second barrage ‘Bidhwa Ko Charam Sukha’. The vocal performance mirrors Lathi Charge
’s ever-changing nature too, as gutturals, frenzied highs and punky hollers (all spewed in their native Nepalese) interchange almost as frequently as you blink, always feeling appropriate in its guise at the current time. Sadly, ‘Kancho Ko Badla’ falls into the common trap of being a mid-tempo instrumental closer and therefore makes for a slightly deflating end, although the inclusion of (what I can only assume to be) a Nepalese pop song at the end feels surprisingly at home as the album’s fade out.
While it’s a shame that, to the English speaking world at least, the details of the message behind Lathi Charge
may be lost to the language barrier, frustration, anger and aggression is something that transcends any such obstructions. Impressively (particularly for a debut release), Chepang manage to bundle all the above traits into a beast that not only gnashes and snarls, but contains enough to make second listens that little bit too irresistible.