Axis of Despair is an act put together by a gang of people long active on the Swedish death metal, hardcore and grindcore scenes. The group includes members who play or have played with bands such as Nasum, Coldworker, Overtorture, Volturyon and Infanticide. That resume, as well as the band name, indicates that we now are on the most most punk oriented, political end of the death/grind spectrum. This is the end where I feel the least at home. Partly because such bands usually make music I don’t like, and also because political punk lyrics are usually rather shallow and unimaginative, making the bands come off as self righteous and adolescent in equal measure.
The lyrics on Mankind Crawls are a bit more clever than is usual for the genre, though, even while they remain stylistically pretty much what could be expected. While “The last sight” is rather standard fare, something about war and nuclear holocaust, the final track, “Life on Standby”, is a desperate but lively depiction of a relationship falling apart. “Enclave” is perhaps the most impressive lyrical assault, since it is kind of a stripped down protest song against clique thinking. With lines such as “Passing judgement from ivory towers/Blind to the stark animosity, enclave of pride and stupidity” it could pass as a rallying cry for the populist working class against established politicians and “PC media”, or as a hashtag-theresistance indictment of tribalism and racism. Or maybe it’s more generally about the online culture of ideological clique forming, which has caused Western public discourse to deteriorate, possibly beyond repair? Come to think of, it fits just fine with many of the hardcore and punk environments I knew way back when too. It’s a multi-layered lyric, that really hammers home the validity of the cliche that less is more.
The music is grindcore with some death metal and punk thrown in. It’s tight as hell, and as fast as you could want. The vocals are not quite growling, nor high pitched at all. A good way to explain them would be to ask you to imagine a thrash metal vocalist who’s desperate and pissed off for real. The drum work is excellent, moving from punky bompa-bompa beats, over heavy double kicks to – of course – underwear charring blast beats. There are no melodic passages to speak of, unless you count hardcore power chord riffing accidentally producing a melody. The balance between the different styles varies a bit between songs – “Skulking” could pass for regular death metal, “Under the Surface” is far more hardcore/punk influenced. All tracks fit under the grindcore umbrella, though.
This is precisely what this type of music is supposed to be. For someone who is not 100% on board with the genre, Axis of Despair make good ambassadors, showing that even grindcore without gore lyrics can be quite enjoyable.
Get it from Give Praise Records.