Axis Of Despair/Human Cull/Cryptic Shift/Slimelord @Head Of Steam, Newcastle July 27, 2019

In the 15 years since Nasum’s demise – precipitated by the tragic death of Mieszko Talarczyk in the 2004 tsunami – their absence has been keenly felt.

But thankfully the Swedes’ legacy lives in on bands like Axis Of Despair – who feature former Nasum drummer Anders Jakobson in their ranks – and through nights like this, where grindcore’s chaotic energy is unleashed, sucking all present into its vortex.

Exeter’s Human Cull certainly know a thing or two about the dent Nasum made on extreme music. But while their grind assault nods to the Swedish legends – and owes a lot to the likes of Napalm Death and Pig Destroyer – Human Cull are their own men, subtly weaving discordant new strands into their abrasive fabric. With Luke Archer’s six-string bass churning and bubbling away, anchoring the maelstrom, it makes for a hell of a show.

The trio may have gone under the radar since their 2011 inception, but with a clutch of EPs and two full lengths to their name, they had plenty of ammo to expend on Saturday: Worship Nothing and An Offering To The Machine, both taken from last year’s Revenant, were startling in their intensity, fierce whirlwinds of barely restrained aggression.  

Frontman Edd Robinson, resplendent in an Anti-Cimex shirt, joked about being glad of some cooler Northern weather, after the mercury rose to record levels last week. His band, though, did their best to set the temperature back to blast furnace level.

Yet this show wasn’t completely dominated by stripped down grind riffs and blastbeats…

Leeds deathsters Slimelord lived up to their moniker with a set wrenched from the rotting guts of old school DM, their love of dive bomb guitar licks and slithering rhythms harking back to classic Autopsy and Obituary. Indeed, the quintet’s fine set got the night off to a (nicely) festering start. A Ronseal band of ever there was one…

And it wasn’t over for Slimelord’s John Riley, Ryan Sheperson and Xander Bradley, who, as Cryptic Shift, followed up with the complex technical death/thrash which has been turning underground heads for five years.

A muddy mix obscured some of the subtleties of Bradley’s fretwork, but the trio seemed more aggressive than on record, more willing to go for the jugular.

Axis Of Despair, though, will tear your throat right out.

Last year’s Contempt For Man album and 2019’s And The Machine Rolls On EP showed what the Swedish act are capable of: highly inventive, dynamic grindcore which the titans of the genre would be proud of.

Live, tracks such as Pre-emptive Nuclear Strike detonate even harder, thanks to Jakobson and Oskar Pålsson hyperspeed telepathy, and Kristofer Jankarls’ supercharged riffing.

Plus, in Joel Fornbrant, they have a frontman who can mix inter-song playfulness with total ferocity. It’s a potent brew.

Indeed, basement venues like The Head Of Steam are where you should be while facing the searing heat of AOD’s Pawn Sacrifice – not festival fields. This is how grindcore is supposed to be seen, heard and felt – in your face, no compromises, no let up.

It was a perfect place, then, for Axis of Despair to make their Newcastle debut – and show why they’re one of grind’s most incendiary emerging acts.