Sometimes anger is the only natural, justifiable response to a situation. Like early this morning, for instance, when I was awoken abruptly from a dead sleep by the sound of gunshots emanating from a car driving down our normally peaceful block, apparently aimed straight in the air like it’s the fucking O.K. Corral. Dealing with frightened renters, an understandably concerned wife, and three scared pups well into the morning due to someone’s reckless, dangerous dysfunction will really bring out the wrath in a person. On my walk to the train to get to work this morning, I was fuming, and all I wanted to listen to was Axis of Despair’s debut full-length, Contempt for Man. Taking off my reviewers cap and letting the genuine hatred of this record flow through me was a cathartic, memorable experience that I’ll carry with me for some time.
If that isn’t a ringing endorsement for a grindcore record I don’t know what is.
If you’re a fan of Nasum, Coldworker, or Infanticide, you’ll find a lot to love on Contempt for Man. Hailing from Sweden and containing members of each of the above bands (and then some), Axis of Despair peddle pure, unfiltered grindcore aggression over 20 tracks that are as vicious as you’ll hear this year. Uninterested in the overlaying of noisy, sample-stuffed sonic textures made popular by bands like Full of Hell, Axis of Despair opt for a more direct and sonically blunt approach. “Demons and Angels” will rip your head clean off your shoulders in exactly one minute and nineteen seconds, and is exemplar of the rest of the record. This is a blistering assault on the senses from start to finish, with no reprieve in sight. This is no-frills grindcore of the most ferocious and focused order, and it is awesome.
That isn’t to say that the band isn’t capable of nuance. “The Wolven Law” starts at a measured, death metal-esque pace before erupting into a grindcore fury, and mixes these elements incredibly well. There are definitive layers to these tracks, displaying the band’s propensity for great songwriting in the midst of the sonic maelstrom. For every relentless beating from a track like “Lockdown”, there’s a more variety-filled track like “The Noose Tightens” or “Crush the Empire”. But these subtleties are essentially all variations on theme, with that theme being complete and total annihilation. There isn’t a track on this record that doesn’t want to tear through your ligaments, and the violent reaction one feels when listening to this record is tactical and earned. With Contempt for Man, Axis of Despair have crafted a tight, concise, and fiery winner that is as well-constructed and carefully considered as it is maniacally violent.
Above most other forms of music, extreme metal and its many branches have the propensity to tap into our most fundamental emotions and extract/examine them through chaotic composition. Axis of Despair fully understand this potential within their chosen genre, and exploit it with all the ferocity of a caged animal, frothing with rage and intent on violence. In Contempt for Man, the band have found their first full-length vehicle to interpret their, and our, anger into 32 minutes of merciless grindcore. It’s a sight to behold, and a cathartic and effective listen by most any measurable metric.
Contempt for Man will be released on July 27th through Southern Lord Records, and is available for pre-order in physical and digital formats on the band’s Bandcamp page.