Thursday, March 13, 2008

NASUM Career Retrospective

*to be published in an upcoming issue of Resound Magazine
copyright Kim Kelly 2008

Grindcore is a fickle mistress – bands come and go, some barely make it past their first 26-song 7” before vanishing into obscurity, but when a grind band is good…they’re really, really fucking good. Nowadays, the sound and scene surrounding it has changed and mutated in so many ways that it’s getting difficult to even say which bands are truly grind and which are just being ironic, but it hasn’t always been like that. Years ago, you had your Napalm Death, your Extreme Noise Terror, your Repulsion and Terrorizer and Seige, pissed-off dissidents who provided furious bursts of noise and aggression that spoke to an earlier generation of disaffected youth. I can’t remember which song first introduced me to the ridiculous speed, unrelenting riffage, unholy brutality, punked-out sneer, and the unmistakable barking-pitbull vocals that make up Napalm Death – but I do know that it changed my life, and started me down this left-hand path so many of us follow.
Without Shane Embury & the boys, grindcore as we know it may have ended up as something very different indeed, and some of the genre’s best bands may never have found the inspiration to pick up their guitars and shred. When Anders Jakobson and Richard Alriksson of Swedish death metal band Necrony decided to start a grindcore project during the tail-end of 1992, their sole aim was to create ripping, political grindcore in the vein of their musical heroes in, you guessed it, Napalm Death. That side project quickly became much more than a simple artistic outlet. Rounded out by guitarist Mieszko Talarczyk and christened “Nasum,” the band’s first release, a 7” split with Agathocles, was released by Necrony’s home label, Poserslaughter Records. That handful of songs opened the floodgates, and Nasum began to release a series of split 7”s and compilations with the likes of Retaliation, Vivisection, and Psycho. This led to the founding of Mieszko’s label, Grindwork Productions and to the birth of Nasum’s first demo, “Domedagen.” The demo was poorly-recorded and more than a little rushed, so when Poserslaughter offered them an MCD, Nasum included re-recorded version of six “Domedagen” songs alongside their newer material. The result was called “Industislaven,” and unbeknownst to the band themselves, heralded a new era in Nasum’s existence.
Soon after the release of “Industislaven,” Nasum was offered the opportunity to play their first few shows with labelmates Dead and Manos, in Germany and Sweden. When it came to light that Richard did not want to do shows, a temporary replacement was found in Per Karlsson. After the mini-tour, Richard left Nasum and Anders took his place behind the kit. The duo of Anders and Mieszko produced their first full 7” EP, entitled “World Turmoil,” and continued to record new material at a breakneck pace. 1997 saw the addition of 17 songs to their repertoire (16 new, and a Discharge cover) all recorded in Mieszko’s brand-new Soundlab recording studio. With this recording, Nasum was at their strongest yet, and the addition of a great production job helped showcase the band’s potent bled of crusty powerviolence, Swedish death metal groove, and straight-up grindcore. A tape of these sessions found its way to Relapse Records, who immediately offered Nasum a one-album deal. Two months later, “Inhale/Exhale” was released, and the extreme metal world has never been the same since.
With its 30 tracks of audio warfare that reeked of seminal Swedish hardcore and the golden era of Swedish death metal, “Inhale/Exhale” became an instant classic and cemented Nasum’s position as one of the most vital new bands in grindcore. In 1999 the addition of Jesper Liverod (Burst) on bass solidified the lineup, and the “new” Nasum headed overseas to play with a slew of notable acts at the legendary Milwaukee Metalfest and appear on the Relapse Contamination tour with labelmates Soilent Green, Today is the Day, Exhumed, and Morgion. Following the overwhelmingly positive response to their decimating live show, Nasum released their next album, “Human 2.0.” They played extensively in support of their latest blasterpiece, sharing stages with Entombed, Skitsystem, The Dilliger Escape Plan, and gracing the hallowed stage at Wacken Open Air as well as at several other festivals. They even hit Japan, as part of the “Extreme the Dojo” tour with Candiria and Cryptopsy.
After several years of nonstop globetrotting and international eardrum-shattering, Nasum retired to Soundlab to record their third album for Relapse. The album was entitled “Helvete,” and featured guest appearances from Entombed’s Jorgen Sandstrom and none other than Shame Embury of Napalm Death, which surely thrilled the longtime fans in Nasum to no end. “Helvete showed a more diverse side of Nasum, mixing their trademark grind with a cleaner, more streamlined approach to death metal, beefing up the grooves, and incorporating a more d-beat-style of drumming alongside the usual blastbeats. “Helvete” was met with thundering applause from the extreme metal community, and the band embarked upon yet another string of dates around Europe. The decision was made to add new members Urban Skytt of Regurgitate on second guitar, and after Jesper Liverod decided to leave Nasum in order to concentrate on his other band Burst, bassist Jon “Elle” Lindqvist (Sayyadina) was welcomed into the fold as well. After playing a few warm-up shows around Sweden, the now-five-piece embarked upon a sold-out Japanese tour with heroes Napalm Death in early 2004. Afterwards, they returned to Sweden to accept two prestigious awards - the P3 Guld Award for "Best Rock/Metal" album and the Manifest Award for "Best Metal/Punk album."
2004 brought about some very important changes for Nasum. Unbeknownst to their fans, they inked a new contract with Burning Heart Records, negotiated a licensing deal with Relapse, and quietly holed up in the Soundlab studio to bring forth their most ambitious effort to date. “Shift” was released mid-October of that same year, and Nasum made their first promotional video for the song “Wrath” at a club in Stockholm. Soon after, Nasum took Europe by storm on their first –ever headlining tour. The future was looking bright for Nasum, with a new album, more tour dates, and an upcoming TV appearance for them to look forward to. It seemed like a good time for the band to kick back and relax, but, as we all know by now, that star-crossed vacation was the beginning of the end for the planet’s best grind act.
While taking a hard-earned vacation with his girlfriend on the beautiful beaches of Thailand, Nasum’s longtime guitarist and beloved friend Mieszko Talarczyk passed away in the Tsunami on December 24, 2004. The metal community wept for its fallen brother, and the remaining members of Nasum decided to end the band out of respect for Mieszko’s memory. Anders decided to pay tribute to Mieszko and preserve Nasum’s legacy by painstaking collecting every last bit of recorded Nasum material, and releasing it as a 2CD compilation entitled “Grind Finale” in 2005. Nasum will always be remembered as one of the best grindcore bands to have ever existed – they are, always have been, and shall always be utterly untouchable. They inspired untold numbers of bands, and the music they created is held closely and fiercely by those who loved them. Relapse Records’ final tribute to a band gone too soon comes in the form of a live release. One half of a split with Napalm Death, “Doombringer” brings to light a handful of tracks captured at one of Nasum’s shows in Osaka, Japan, and stands as a living testament to a band that came, saw, conquered, and absolutely decimated. They’ll never be forgotten, and never be outshone.

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