A deeper look at the “meat and potatoes” grindcore of Axis Of Despair.
Formed in 2013 by members of Coldworker (Joel Fornbrant, vocals/Oskar Pålsson, bass), Nasum (Anders Jakobson, drums, also of Coldworker) and Livet Som Insats (Kristofer Jankarls, guitars), Axis Of Despair stand atop a rich and diverse history of Swedish extreme metal. The band already had two EPs under their belt, Time and Again (2015) and Mankind Crawls (2016), before spending a year working on a long-awaited full-length. Now completed, Contempt For Man is twenty tracks of distilled fighting music. Axis of Despair have composed an arresting, fleeting and precise ode to grindcore.
The album will be released on 27th July 2018 via Southern Lord, and shouldn’t be missed by fans of extreme metal for its aggressive, misanthropic aura and excellent presentation, hammered home by Joel Fornbrant’s hardcore barks as well as a contempt for humanity and bewilderment at the absurd hierarchies and systems it imprisons itself within.
Dirge-like basslines, surprisingly prominent in the mix, add a steely substructure to the work, whilst the guitar-work embeds a morose and belligerent atmosphere and occasionally catches you off guard with touches of groove, all conducted by the crisp drums that maintain the quintessential velocity and unforgiving rhythm of the grind.
To find out more, we had a chat with sticksman Anders Jakobson, who divulged details about the album’s creation and inspirations. Read on for an insight.
After playing together in Axis Of Despair for five years, what did you want Contempt For Man to show about yourselves, what kind of statement did you want it to leave? Has it been in the back of your minds since inception?
Axis Of Despair has developed slowly during the years. Later on this year it will indeed be five years since the initial start of the band, but we actually got things rolling during the spring of 2014, so it hasn’t been that long really. Obviously, we didn’t plan for an album as early as 2014. We wrote a number of songs during the first year of the band until we chose twelve to record for our first two 7″ EPs in the summer of 2015. By then we were set on doing an album next and got focused on our songwriting by early 2016 or so. It’s been quite a long process, but the focus has been to create a really good grindcore album so it took its time for a reason.
As a band, you worked together previously in Coldworker. Did you intend for any resemblance between the two projects, or was it the case of attempting something completely new with Axis Of Despair?
There will always be a “previous band” that follows you wherever you go. I have never seen Axis Of Despair as a development or a continuation of Coldworker, they’re just two bands that happen to share three members. Joel, Oskar and I had a good thing going on in Coldworker but the band failed to reach a certain level that was needed for us to develop further. However, we enjoyed playing together so it was a no-brainer that we should continue in some way. Musically, the two bands obviously have some similarities but for me the differences in the general ideas are much greater. Today we play with Kristofer who wasn’t in Coldworker, and earlier we played with two guys that were an essential part of the Coldworker sound, so that is a huge difference. But, I must also add that the opening track on the album actually had its origins in an unfinished Coldworker song from many years ago…
Contempt For Man has very high production quality, every musical element possesses a distinct and powerful presence. How did the process go, did you have an idea of the “sound” of the album before or after the songwriting?
With grindcore, there are two different paths to go production-wise: noisy and raw, or clear and distinct. Either way is fine, but our particular type of grindcore benefits from a production where you actually can hear what we are doing. So we wanted a “good” production, just as we did with the previous recording. We basically recorded the album the same way, doing the instruments in Soundlab Studios and the vocals in our rehearsal room, and then had different mixing engineers. Johan Berglund, who did the album, really got the best out of the basic sounds, creating a hard and powerful production with a clear natural foundation. So we are happy with the end result for sure.
How do you see the album in relation to grindcore? What kind of influences have you taken, and what separates Contempt For Man from other grindcore works?
In a sense, we are playing some kind of “meat and potatoes” grind that originates from Napalm Death, Terrorizer and Repulsion; grindcore bands that came from hardcore and fell in love with metal, or whatever. There’s nothing modern about our basic sound. But then we have our different sources of personal inspirations that add seasoning to the stew, to continue with the food analogies. So hopefully this will lead to a personal sound that separates us from other bands. In a way, I hope that our stuff reaches out to the listeners that usually not are that into grindcore.
Considering grindcore is typified by fast, abrupt and short pieces, is there a consistent lyrical theme? What elements bind the album together?
There are no story to be found on the album, but some reoccurring themes like modern society’s disregard and hatred for mankind. It’s no “happy-go-lucky” stuff, but pretty mundane reflections or bleak visions of the future that are buried in the twenty songs. The lyrics are obviously equally important as the music for us.
What can fans of the album and Axis Of Despair expect over the next coming months and subsequent year? Are there any tours or festival performances planned? Has work already begun on another release?
We hope to do a number of shows after the release of the album. So far, we only have an appearance at Obscene Extreme 2018 booked, but we want more. We also have a new 7” EP planned that has six songs recorded at the same time as the album. That one will be released in the last quarter of the year, and there is also a plan to put out all our 7” EPs as a CD next year. But we should be back writing some new stuff after the summer. It’s been slow on that front as we have been waiting for the album to be released, but I think we are ready to get into the creative process again soon.
Contempt For Man is out July 27th on Southern Lord. Purchase here.
Words: Omur Sowar