Review Summary: An absolute grindcore masterpiece
It's astounding when a band manages to make an album that tops those of its influences. It's even more amazing when that influence is Napalm Death, a band that quite literally created the grindcore genre. Enter Nasum's "Human 2.0" This album is a solid set of 25 grind classics, all coming at you with speed, ferocity and (dare I say it) catchy melodies. On its own, this album easily has a handful of songs that are perfect on its own, but as a cohesive whole the rest of the album makes all these songs an absolute joy to behold.
Not surprisingly, a lot of "Human 2.0"'s strength comes from vocalist Mieszko Talarczyk. His vocals range from two noticeable pitch differences, a monotone low growl and a piercing shout that is both aggressive and incredibly emotional. Yet still, his low growl serves a purpose by alternating with his higher shout to give the listener a slight break as well as accompanying the instruments when they slow down.
Along with his stellar vocal performance, Mieszko displays some unique skills in the lyrical department. Using "Shadows" as an example, the song builds up as Mieszko shouts "All that's left is shadows/Cast by our shallow dreams/But the fire is still burning/So deep inside, inside of me/" before the instrumentals slow the piece down while his vocals fade away. It's a poetic example of beautiful chaos (a situation where this cliche is appropriate.) Hell, some of the songs are screamed in Talarczyk's native Swedish ("Nar Dagarna" and "Den Svarta Fanan") and still sound damn awesome.
But it isn't just Mieszko's vocals that steal the show. In fact, the instrumentals on all songs either help compliment his vocals or adds a new layer of depth to the song they're on. Particular credit goes to Anders Jakobsson, whose drum work on this album is exceptionally fantastic. Whether it's creating a galloping sound in "Resistance" or pushing the guitars along in "Defragmentation," Jakobson adds the necessary speed to the album as well as enhance the guitar parts he accompanies.
The guitars in this case are also fantastic. Notably, it's their ability to create catchy melodies that pulls the listener in. "The Professional League," "Words to Die For," "Sometimes Dead is Better," and "We're Nothing but Pawns" all start with an infectious guitar melody that hooks the listener. Other times they're used for various effects. Again in "Resistance," the instrumentals will slow the song down then cut out for a high ranged note. Later in the song, this high note is played over and over again as if to simulate an alarm before the song goes back into a frenetic craze. Still, the bass guitar is present, and while it may not immediately jump it still creates this strong low end foundation to keep the guitars afloat. But sometimes it does make a meaningful experience, notably in the slowed down latter half of "The Idiot Parade."
What also is unique about "Human 2.0" is its ability to slow down the tempo without dragging the album down. These slowed down breaks are few and far between, but that's what makes the slowed down sections of song such as "The Idiot Parade" so much heavier, because they create this dense sounding atmosphere that then makes the jumps back to full on aggression even more ridiculous.
On a final note, Nasum still managed to cram in a few pop culture references of its day (that actually sound great with the songs) most notably on "Resistance" with a quote from The Matrix and on "Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow" which begins with a quote from The Shawshank Redemption.
It really is amazing how everything just comes together on this album. Be it Jakobsson's phenomenal drum work, Mieszko Talarczyk's emotional vocal performance, Urban Skytt's catchy guitar melodies, or John Lindqvist's subtle bass presence, all members of Nasum use their particular skill set to craft an album that is both catchy, fast, melodic, and just enjoyable as a whole to listen to. Any one of the songs mentioned here are worthy of listening to on their own, but to fully appreciate these songs, the entire album needs to be listend to. A must own for any Nasum or grindcore fan.
R.I.P. Mieszko Talarczyk