In some ways, it must be exhausting being part of some legendary group. Everything Anders Jakobsen does (or has done since 2005) is and will be inevitably compared to his time in Nasum, and he’ll never escape it. But at least I get the impression that, at least with Axis Of Despair, no one is running from the comparison.
After their seven-year run, three-fifths of Coldworker ended up here, in Axis Of Despair alongside guitarist Kristoffer Jankarls of Livet Som Insats, and this new amalgam of grindcore whiz-kids is now dropping their first full-length after two introductory EPs. I haven’t heard 2015’s Time And Again, but that last EP, 2016’s Mankind Crawls, was a promising slab of Nasum-y grinding. Contempt For Man takes the same template and improves upon it slightly, furthering the band’s mission, which is simply full-bore, no frills Scandinavian grindcore.
The most notable improvement in Contempt For Man is in the production. Whereas Mankind Crawls didn’t sound bad, it sounds markedly thinner and hollower compared to this new one, whereupon the guitars are given a beefier treatment, the drums punchier. In terms of the songwriting and overall execution, Contempt is firmly within the latter-day Nasum wheelhouse, all whirlwind blasting and lightning riff, with Jankarls tossing out riffs both angular and thrashing while vocalist Joel Fornbrant bellows like a less-frantic Barney Greenway.
Relentless for its whole 37 minutes, Contempt For Man is nothing if not consistent, perhaps to its only real fault: It does blur together into one long grind, although that’s often the nature of these beasts. Fornbrant’s reliance upon one vocal pitch tends toward the monotonous (of course), broken up or augmented in some of the most memorable moments with higher-pitched background screams, but not really often enough. Its best moments come in its middle and latter thirds, from the nearly three-minute crush of “Crush The Empire” through the aptly titled “A Life Of Ceaseless Grind” to the groove-laden swaggering one-two of “The Pain Maze” and “Vile Behavior.”
In the absence of Nasum, Axis Of Despair can help to fill a large part of the void, although they don’t quite achieve the genre-topping greatness of that earlier outfit. While it’s not the greatest grindcore effort I’ve heard all year — I’d put efforts from Six Brew Bantha and Wake above it, and possibly Human Cull — Contempt For Man is nevertheless a rock-solid offering of Scandinavian-style grinding for anyone who can’t get enough of the blasting.