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The debut album by Sweden’s Nasum is without doubt a classic grindcore album, despite the fact that it came out in 1998, long after many of the classic grind bands had been laid to rest. “Inhale/Exhale” is a brutal record that is performed with a lot of fury and wrapped in fine musicianship. Consisting of 38 tracks, each song will crush you as the album flies by at lightning speed. You’ll want to experience it over and over as Nasum places enough hooks throughout the recording.
At this point in Nasum’s career, they had already released a lot of splits and other smaller releases, and had really started to find their sound as they approached this record. Taking the best of classic grindcore bands like Napalm Death and Repulsion, brutal punk bands like Discharge, and the overall power of many Swedish punk and metal bands, Nasum had really been on to something. For “Inhale/Exhale”, the duo of Anders Jakobson and Mieszko Talarczyk were certainly on their A-game, and wrote some really angry, really powerful grindcore.
Bursting open with the 24 second micro-song “This Is…”, the listener should get a good idea of what to expect. Songs will rush past you, but not without throwing a bunch of great riffs into the mix. Everything is right to the point; each song blasts away a few different riffs, with the vocals sounding just as angry and blunt as everything else here. By “The Masked Face”, you’ll have already heard the d-beat punk influence in their songs, as well as the band’s tasteful use of breakdowns. Not chugga-chugga breakdowns, but ones that really act as a powerful counterpoint and build up.
Some of the songs here especially ooze of anger, and prove to be an anger management class in themselves. Such examples are “I See Lies”, and “Disappointed”. Other tracks have a bit more groove to them, such as the title track and “Shapeshifter”. The tracks are arranged in such a way that there’s a bit of catch-and-release in terms of groove and total brutality. There’s some other micro-songs thrown into the mix, like “Digging In” and “Lägg Om I” but those even prove to be memorable tracks.
The production is certainly heavy as hell here. Considering the band tunes down to A, the guitar riffs are pretty clear and easy to catch, and have that classic Swedish heaviness to them, comparable to death metal greats like Entombed and Carnage. The drums sound nice and organic, with the snare and bass drum sitting really well in the mix. Both members contribute vocals, and the contrast between highs and lows are certainly effective.
Every Nasum full length is fantastic, and this one is no exception. The songs here are definitely more straightforward when compared to say, “Shift”, which may be preferable to some, but I think the sheer amount of tracks and the fact that each track has its own little hook works just fine. This album is definitely a shining moment for modern grindcore, and should be a staple in any grind fan’s listening habits.
Nasum's first album isn't as great as some of their later works, but it is one of the most archtypical modern grind albums I can think of. It's lean and ferocious; it makes sense that it was made by only two people as it has a harsh minimalism about it that seems to make the idea of a full band composing it an impossibility. It is brackish and raw yet professional and intelligently composed, despite the natural primitivity of the style showcased on this release. 'Inhale/Exhale' is easily Nasum at their most primitive and purest state, and while later albums are artistically more developed and 'important', this is a very necessary component to the collection of any fan of the band or modern grind in general.
Some people make an informal distinction between 'grindcore' and 'grind'. The sharpness of that distinction varies from person to person. In essence, though it verges on splitting hairs, it makes sense; you can't compare the material on this album very much to early Napalm Death. You can't see much of a relationship to Siege or Sore Throat or much in the crust/hardcore field in general. There aren't really any d-beats, shouts, or crust riffs. It is 'grind' minus the -core, which really just means minus the crust. And so what remains is decidedly more minimal. The riffs are fast and dirty collections of chords spun into violent tremolo, occasionally bursting into a quick flair of surprising but restrained technicality. Drumming emphasizes power and speed over precision, with blast beats erupting into snapping snare fills and savagely pounded crash cymbals. Vocals are a hoarse scream with occasional growling backing. Production is messy but representative enough that nothing is really obscured.
Most of the differences between songs are structural in nature more than by individual musical elements. Most of the riffs are rather one-size-fits-all and not especially memorable on their own. What's memorable is the particular fill that starts the song, the way a vocal rhythm bursts into a scream at the end of a phrase, general length or repetition; in short, the relationship of parts to the whole. It works like that as far as the whole album goes, really. The tracks on their own aren't very significant and only gain meaning when strung together in the larger context of the release. It's not a very metal way to write an album at all, and in general this probably isn't a 'metal album'. It is pure, modern grind.
For modern grind, though, I enjoy it a lot. Like many albums in the same style, it is carried mostly by its aesthetic. The vocals are particularly vicious and the high/low alternation comes in roughly enough to be convincing and not plain. The riffs have a certain Disfear style catchiness in places, though these are mostly displaced by straightforward grind tremolo without much to catch the ear. The lack of memorability in much of the music doesn't negatively affect the listening experience, though; it necessitates coming to the album from the perspective of grind rather than extreme metal, but that shouldn't be difficult for those versed in the musical style. In a nutshell, what separates music of this style from typical 'metal' is that it is music of isolated moments rather than narrative structure. What comes before and after the individual songs is essentially meaningless, and the end result of the album is a collection of isolated fragments piecing together a greater story of societal alienation. It's told in no particular order or logic; it's simply told.
Those who dislike grind will find nothing to recommend in this, and those who've listened to modern grind have heard this material before, but it doesn't do anything to reduce the achievement of the album itself. It is quality grind, and while it is overshadowed by the later works of the band, it is still worthwhile for any admirer of the genre.
Grindcore, to me, is one of the hardest, if not THE hardest genres to review. When songs are as short as a few seconds, what can one say about such an effort? Most of the time, I tend to find grindcore quite boring, which is odd considering it’s infamous for being incredibly intense. Nasum are perhaps one of, if not the only grindcore band I can stomach. Whilst there isn’t much difference in terms of the irritating song lengths, there is a notable difference in portrayal and sound.
‘Inhale/Exhale’ seems like an ironic title to me. It’s as if Nasum are saying, ‘breath and you’ll miss it’. Which is in fact quite true. Most of the songs, as I’ll keep stressing, are short. There isn’t an awful lot of time to grasp the content of the lyrics as the vocalist screams them out just as fast as each tune is spun out. From one track to another, all in quick succession. The only emotive quality one could seemingly pull from the wreckage that is grindcore, is the fact that it’s going to be an aggressive assault on the sense. Albeit a quick assault. Kind of like a smash and grab raid, if you will.
The trick with grindcore is to submerge yourself into the music. If you successfully manage to do so, one track will merge into the other. So, essentially, you’re listening to one long song, which could be seen as a benefit, or the total opposite. Why? Well, grindcore is something I can only listen to if I’m in a very specific mood. Basically, I must be angry. If I’m angry, Nasum are usually the band I turn to. In terms of releasing stress to, Nasum are unbeatable. But if you’re looking at grindcore to have something to feel sad to, or any other emotion other than anger, you’re in the wrong place. This will either have to moshing to your heart’s content, or it will induce a headache. The idea of grindcore is mystifying to me. I understand it’s short and sharp bursts of intense emotion, but it’s so incredibly one dimensional, it’s almost not worth it, most of the time.
Whilst I do think highly of Nasum, albums like ‘Inhale/Exhale’ are to be stored away for a rainy, or should that be angry day as that is the only real form of emotion that is on offer. The guitars and percussion tend to leave the bass behind, which is unfortunate. Bass doesn’t have much of a place in the grindcore genre, unless we’re talking about double bass on the drums. Then and only then is it affective. As far as stand out songs go, the title track is by far and away the best song on the album. It’s passion is remarkable, but when it comes to the other songs, most are seen as fillers, or just nonsensical additions. The only other song I can think of that is worth a mention is ‘Worldcraft’.
Wow, the first release of Nasum is killer. Inhale/Exhale holds nothing back, it has no remorse to the listener. Nasum are a band that you don't have to think about because the music just comes right at you. There is so fucking time to think! Nasum are definately the epitome of great grindcore. Songs ranging from seconds to the one minute mark, Nasum certainly know how to keep the listener interested. Instead of blast-beats through the whole album, Nasum utilize some groove parts but they don't ABUSE them. Nasum show a grindcore band can have groovy parts and still have a grind sound.
The guitars on this album are awesome. I don't think any other band can have a sound like the guitars on this album. The guitars have a very raspy yet strong as a hurricane sound. The vocals range from traditional yelling, somewhat punk sounding yells at times too and then there are loud as fuck yells that mix with screaming. The bass is also very chunky-sludgy-like so they make the music really heavy. The drumming rangings from simple patterns to super fast poundings. The instruments mesh together amazingly to create one hell of a grinding sound.
Nasum's lyircs on this album are very strong. Unlike some bands that are very politically incorrect that just bash the government, Nasum use there knowledge to a good use. The lyrics are somewhat negative and positive. You can moshing around to "It's Never Too Late" and then you read the lyrics and they somewhat have a positive feel to them:
"Start to think, start to live
make your best, make an effort"
I think the lyrics are very well written and go along to the music well. The song Inhale/Exhale has a groovy sound to it but still holds some grindish parts just like some other songs. My personal favourite songs are the ones that just blast at you like: I See Lies, I'm Not Silent, Blinded, Lagg Om, The New Fring Song, etc.
Overall, if you're into grindcore then get this album (you should alreading freaking have it). If you think twice about grindcore and you don't know what to do then get this album because really I think it's better than Napalm Death. If you don't like grindcore, then get out of Nasum's page!