Nasum - Shift [Burning Heart / Relapse / Ritual - 2004]Since Nasum was created in 1992 the band has lifted the grindcore genre to a higher level, and proved that this type of music knows no limitations whatsoever. Last week they toured through Holland for the first time in four years to promote the new album Shift; a good reason for yours truly to go completely crazy at their show.
Going crazy is absolutely no problem with Nasum’s music. Super-intense guitars, which stand midway between traditional grindcore-riffs à la old Napalm Death and very heavy death metal, supported with ultra fast blastbeats (pay attention to the cymbals) and the voice of Mieszko Talarczyk, who screams like a madman consumed with hate and anger. But as the title implies there has something changed at the Nasum camp. Bassist Jesper Liveröd left the band and got replaced with Jon Lindqvist. Also Urban Skytt, member of the fellow Swedish grindcore act Regurgitate, joined as second guitarist. The biggest surprise however, is that Nasum left the big Relapse label to choose for the punk label Burning Heart, which has its office is Nasum’s hometown Örebro. Shift is still released in the U.S. by Relapse, and by Ritual in Japan.
What are exactly the effects of these changes on Nasum's characteristic sound? It quickly becomes clear that Jon and Urban have contributed writing the music, which was written solely by drummer Anders Jakobsson and vocalist/guitarist Mieszko in the past. The guitar riffs seem to contain a more groove feeling than before, like a more worked up version of Entombed. To my horror the album contains some guitar solos, performed by Peter Freed in this case. Luckily, both happen seldom and Nasum stays simply Nasum. We are blown away again in a old-fashioned way and it never gets really mid-tempo, apart from just one track. On the contrary, I even think that Shift could be as well Nasum’s fastest album to date. It appears that they are still kindly disposed towards the past, judging from the track No Paradise For The Damned, dating from the time before their debut album Inhale/Exhale. With that fact Shift is probably more old-school Nasum than the previous work Helvete, which contained a bit too many death metal parts to my taste. The production by Mieszko is somewhat rawer as well, which helps the grindcore sound to stand out.
The stylish part of Nasum is that they can make every song unique, and don’t let any song sound like another, although their repertoire consists of a mere 200 tracks (Shift contains 24 in barely 38 minutes). The catchy riffs, grooves and even choruses (!) demonstrate great musicianship. The highlights are Twinkle, Twinkle Little Scar, the sluggish Wrath, Like Cattle, The Smallest Man (“You’re Such A Whore!”) and Fury, the latter actually belonging to the Helvete recording sessions.
The lyrics are, as usual, pretty politically charged, like the way it should be with grindcore music. Anti-capitalism has been the main message for four albums now, together with the standard hate, frustration and anger towards the society and the human race in general. A couple of samples carry this message too, for those who cannot read (the vocals are somewhat inaudible I’m afraid). The lyrics are written by Anders, Mieszko and Jon, and also include some songs in Swedish language.
When looking at the intensity of this record, I have to admit that Nasum cannot match the latest Pig Destoyer and – at times – The Dillinger Escape Plan, but the metal fans can easily add Shift to this list. Shift has everything a proper grindcore album needs, and I’m glad to hear that Nasum keeps on developing their sound instead of staying where they are. The flag-bearer of the newest generation of grindcore acts still remains one of the most innovative bands, and I therefore simply count Shift among the best metal releases of 2004.Justin Faase