Chepang- Swatta (Album Review)

July 19, 2023


Share This Review


Connect with Chepang


Listen to Chepang

If you’re regularly following grindcore and new releases in the genre, chances are good that sometime over the past few years you’ve come across Chepang.  The members of Chepang hail from Nepal but are based out of New York these days, and with a two-drummer lineup they’ve written fast and furious material that was up there with some of the more intense in the genre.  Following a few releases of more straightforward attacks with some hints of other elements, 2020’s Chatta started to include some experimental elements and even tacked a few remixes onto the end of the album.  But that is just a taste of how out there the band can get, and this year’s Swatta feels like an ambitious push outwards towards every facet of extreme music.  The album is split into four parts, some of which find the core group exploring other musical styles alongside their usual grind while others bring in a laundry list of guests and even a trained AI model for some truly over the top material.  It’s creative, aggressive, and fun all at the same time, and showcases that where some bands are content to simply hammer the same fast grind riffs from one album to the next Chepang is always looking ahead to where they can go next.

I must admit that the almost fifty-minute run-time concerned me, as Chepang’s past material and grind in general rarely makes it to the half hour mark.  This was true of their last effort Chatta, which just barely hit thirty minutes even with the remixes.  But the ambitious approach and sheer amount of creativity and experimentation makes the twenty-nine tracks fly by and hold your attention in the process.  The first ten songs make up Side A and serve as the most traditional grind pieces, but still find Chepang branching out towards different genres.  On this side they’re only using one of their two drummers and utilizing brighter melodies in between the faster blasting and heavier tonality to create a sound that sticks with you.  “Anurodh” and “Anumati” sound like a melodic punk or post hardcore melody sped up to triple speed and then run through blast beats, while “Avilasa” has the type of spastic stop/start riffing that reminds me more of Converge or some mathcore artists.  Even these tracks all last for one to two minutes Chepang crams a lot of substance into each one, and the interplay between dark and light creates some moments that are actually memorable.  It’s the group’s formula of fast, precise songwriting at its peak and for others in the genre they could’ve just released these tracks and been done.  But there are three more sides after this, and it’s only a downward spiral into insanity from this point on.

Side B is only four songs long, but things start to get a little weirder and more experimental here.  “Bid” opens with darker, moodier synths and electronic elements and once the rest of the band comes roaring in the sound is noticeably denser than the songs that preceded them.  It sounds like Chepang is using both drummers here again, but the songwriting on this track feels like a psych rock jam where the instrumentalists let loose as saxophone and other instruments join the fray.  There’s still some grind and darker hardcore at work here, but “Am” is the only one that keeps things rooted in metal and punk.  “Ba” is one of the longest pieces on Swatta at almost six minutes, and it goes from faster, angular grind into some slower, sludgier breaks and brings back the saxophone around the halfway point for another fluid and noisy jam session.  “Na” meanwhile works with dissonance and electronic elements that make it sound like your speakers are glitching out, distorting the sound into a wall of psychedelic and warm textures. 

Side C is where the rails are removed and there aren’t any limits whatsoever, as Chepang brings in so many guests that I can’t name them all in the scope of this review.  Instead, I’ll link to this Instagram post which gives a good run-down of who’s who.  Each song uses initials to indicate who contributed, and you get bursts of frantic grind, punk, and everything in between.  A few of the highlights on this side include the chugging goregrind and death metal slant of “GC”, the crazy dissonant riffing on “DIA”, and the technical freakouts of “DMT”.  It’s a wild ride that feels like the entire grind and metal community coming together for one big party, and while that sounds like it would make for a collection of songs that have no connection whatsoever things flow seamlessly here.  As if the laundry list of guest appearances weren’t enough, the final five songs (Side D) use a trained AI model to tweak and recreate Chepang’s music.  However this was done, it makes the grind impossibly fast and distorts the vocals so much that it comes across as nightmarish.

Speaking of the vocals, they continue to be a dominating force add that extra layer of intensity to the album, no matter what the rest of the band is doing.  There’s a familiarity to the attack as harsher screams give way to lower growls, and the interplay between the two really makes Chepang hit as hard as they possibly can.  This time around the raspier pitches stand out more early on, as when they’re paired with the brighter melodies the screaming jumps out at you with how over the top it is.  As you get into the guest contributions the vocals switch things up, with additional styles joining the fray and adding even more extremity.  The aforementioned “GC” is a highlight for me as the vocals deliver the type of pitch shifted growls that fit goregrind perfectly, contributing that griminess that is appealing.  Although the experimentation of the instrumentals may be what grabs you the first time through, there’s just as much diversity to the vocal performances.

It feels like I’m just barely scratching the surface when it comes to discussing everything Swatta has to offer, but if you’re a fan of grind that’s on the experimental and weirder side this is a must have.  Chepang has really put a lot into this effort and it’s crazy that the collaborations fit so seamlessly into the rest of the material.  Sometimes it’s grind and punk, sometimes it’s psychedelic free jazz jams, and other times approach the cybergrind insanity of Agoraphobic Nosebleed, but there’s always something new to discover and some substance underneath the speed and technical showpieces.  It’s a creative success and one that I’ve wanted to return to time and time again after the AI blitzkrieg comes to its conclusion.  The real question is, how does Chepang possibly top this one now that they’ve thrown this sheer volume of content at listeners?  Swatta is available from Holy Goat Records, Selfmadegod Records, and Coxinha Records.

-Review by Chris Dahlberg