On Boxing Day, 2004, the Sumatra-Andaman earthquake caused a tsunami in the north Indian Ocean that became the sixth deadliest natual disaster in history. One of the hundreds of thousands lost that day was Mieszko Talarczyk, frontman for Swedish grindcore band Nasum, whose albums Human 2.0 and Helvete are undisputed classics of the genre. Eight years on from that tragedy, the surviving members of the band have reformed for a final tour, to give their fans the farewell they weren’t able to deliver until now.
“That wasn’t really how we wanted to end the band, and it certainly wasn’t how our fans wanted to end the band,” explains drummer Anders Jakobsen. “We’ve been unsatisfied during all these years, and people have always been unsatisfied by not being able to see the band at all for that time. It felt like it was time to do a proper farewell and say thanks to all our listeners for all these years, to celebrate the memory of Mieszko and to celebrate the band and all the songs we’ve done.”
“And by doing it this year,” he continues, “it coincided with the 20th anniversary of the band. The stars were aligning or whatever. It just felt right to do it. If we had done this five years ago, it would have been too cose to the death of Mieszko and felt a lot more stranger than it does today. Today’s more about celebrating the band than mourning him.”
Still, the decision to get Nasum back was not one that was made lightly. Jakobsen, bass player Jesper Liveröd and guitarists Urban Skytt and Jon Lindqvist began discussing the idea in 2010 and started getting together to rehearse once in a while to get a feel for things once again.
“From the very first rehearsal, things felt fine. It wasn’t that emotional charged or whatever that you might expect,” the drummer says. “It was just fun to play together again and play the old songs and sort of rediscovering your past. It wasn’t particularly difficult.”
In fact, Jakobsen says that it took until Nasum was almost ready to go back out on the road before the ghost of their fallen singer manifested – metaphorically speaking.
“One of the very last rehearsals that we did before we went on tour, we felt for the first time [that] Mieszko is missing, he isn’t with us in the rehearsal space or touring with us. And that was quite a strange feeling. And I’m quite surprised that I got that feeling so late in the process. Half the songs we played, he wrote them. He is always with us in some way. But I’m not getting any sign from the Other Side!”
Fronting Nasum for the tour is Keijo Niinimaa of Finnish grind unit Rotten Sound, themselves one of Europe’s most extreme and intense bands. He comes to the role following a long process of decision-making and planning that began with the idea for a single show and eventually became the worldwide tour Nasum is currently undertaking.
“The first idea we had was to get together and do one final show, and the idea then was to invite a lot of singers who had a connection to Nasum, for example bands that we had been touring with. An evening where perhaps five or six different singers would take turns and do three or four songs each, so that no one would take [Talarczyk’s] place,” Jakobsen says.
“But when we discussed the idea about getting back together a bit more, we realised we had to do a complete tour. The whole idea of having multiple singers kinda fell apart. Because it would be impossible to do. Then we thought about having two persons that would turns.”
In the end, Niinimaa was the only person the band wanted to take on the role. With the tour well underway, Jakobsen says they have no regrets about their choice.
“We always came back to Keijo as the first choice. And in the end he was the only one we asked and he said yes right away. It’s been a wise decision becsause he’s a really professional grindcore singer and really adds something to the overall appearance of the band. He’s doing his own thing, but he’s also very close to what Nasum did on the albums because he’s not only doing what Mieszko did but he’s doing my voice and what all the other guys did.”
In a world where farewell tours can drag on for years at a time or be followed twelve months later by a comeback, there are probably more than a few cynics who doubt the band really will call it a day when their world tour ends in October.
Yet Anders Jakobsen is adamant that the European shows that will follow the Australian and Asian ones will definitely be Nasum’s last.
“Well some people have a hard time believing that we will quit but I assure you, this is it,” he says. “We will not show up with an extra farewell tour next year, or whatever. Because we are sacrificing a lot of our lives to do this: personal lives and work and other bands and whatever. I think we’re doing such a focused farewell thing it wouldn’t be the same to go on tour next year. We wouldn’t write any new songs or do any changes or whatever. It would just be to milk it for more money. We’re not interested in doing that. We want to go out in style on the top of our game.”
It is an assertion totally in keeping with the character of the band, who in the tradition of Napalm Death preferred political and social commentary in their lyrics rather than the often puerile and juvenile subject matter of many other grindcore acts.
“The political side of Nasum really didn’t go much further than a wish to express some sane things in our lyrics,” Jakobsen says of Nasum’s often left-leaning stance. “A huge part of the grindcore community doesn’t give a shit about politics. They write about gore and porn or whatever! We always thought that we had the opportunity to say something with our lyrics, so we would express some ideas about political subjects or whatever for those who are interested in reading the lyrics. Because you probably don’t hear what we say if you haven’t got the lyrics sheet in front of you. We’re not activists or anything like that.”
Immediately following Talarczyk’s death, Nasum disbanded, but Jakobsen has kept their legacy alive through a smattering of releases – including the massive 152-track Grind Finale compilation – occasional updates to the group’s website and other activities. To this end, consciousness of the band remained at a distinct level instead of fading away like so many others may have done.
“Things have been happening all the time keeping Nasum alive in some way, ” Jakobsen says. “It’s not the situation where we just came back from the unknown and people had to remember, ‘Oh yeah, that was a band from ten years ago’. I still think it was very surprising for most people that we decided to get together again and do this. There was a lot of internal discussion and preparation and turning every stone before we made the final decision. It wasn’t something we came up with on the Monday and announced it on the Wednesday. It was one and a half years of discussion and rehearsals and really thinking this through before we did it. And after the first couple of shows we realised that we made the right decision to do this. The reaction has been very good.”
Australian audiences will soon get to experience Nasum for the first – and last – time. The band that inspired Napalm Death to return to playing grind will be touring the country with Psycroptic in August. Anders Jakobsen is particularly keen to get here, as Australia was one of the few places the band did not get to visit with Talarczyk.
“I’m sure if we hadn’t been disbanded in 2005 I’m quite sute we would have showed up in Australia eventually. It was one of parts of the world we haven’t been before. So we are really happy to come to Australia and see what the crowds are like and the Australian life is like.”
In closing, he makes a promise to Aussie fans.
“I will give a free shirt to anyone who brings a kangaroo to a show.”
Nasum plays Australia with Psycroptic at the following shows:
15/8: Amplifier Bar, Perth WA (with Dyscarnate + Sensory Amusia + Inanimacy) *
16/8: Fowlers Live, Adelaide SA
17/8: HiFi Bar, Brisbane QLD
18/8: HiFi Bar, Sydney NSW
19/8: HiFi Bar, Melbourne VIC
*Psycroptic not appearing