Nasum‘s influence on modern grindcore and the entire history of the genre can not be overstated. Across a relatively short recording career, featuring four full-length albums, the Swedish legends created an intimidating, high quality body of work that helped propel grindcore into the modern era. Along with other modern innovators like Pig Destroyer, Nasum played a crucial role in raising the genre’s underground profile, without losing an ounce of the white knuckle intensity and raw aggression typical of grind. They did so without fucking too much with the genre’s basic template. But a distinctive Swedish edge to their sound, coupled with tight musicianship and an unmatched ability to combine shrewd use of melody and face-melting extremity with hugely catchy grooves and memorable riffs, elevated Nasum to elite status. Unfortunately the band came to a halt when frontman/guitarist Mieszko Talarczyk was one of over two hundred thousand people killed in the 2004 Asian tsunamis, effectively ending the band in tragic circumstances.

Inhale/Exhale was the culmination of a half decade or so of toiling in the underground, releasing a variety of splits and EPs before arriving at their debut LP, a 38-track blitzkrieg of grind violence. Subsequent albums may have found Nasum further honing and sharpening their tools of destruction with outstanding results, but the gritty, slightly rawer power of Inhale/Exhale remains as vital today as it did 20 years ago. The crusty guitar tone fucking rips, the dueling screams and growls of Mieszko and drummer Anders Jakobson provided one of the best and most potent grind vocal performances in existence, while the songs carried incredible weight and memorability regardless of their scant timeframes.

A combustible clusterfuck of wonderfully crusty, buzzsaw riffage, relentless blasts, unhinged aggression, and some of the catchiest grind on the planet, Inhale/Exhale is best consumed as an epic whole (at a shade over 43 minutes, Inhale/Exhale is a lengthy album in grindcore terms). Crunchy groove tracks like “Inhale/Exhale,” “Shapeshifter,” and “When Science Fails” lends the album great balance and diversity, beautifully complimenting the punky grinders and death-grind fireballs that dominate the album. Isolating individual tracks is challenging considering how many there are, but I can confidently state the album is devoid of weak links. Even ridiculously short songs, like the 18-second “Digging In,” finds Nasum cramming an unbelievable amount of energy and aggression into such a brief composition. More fully fleshed songs, such as early highlights “The Masked Face” and explosively catchy “Time to Act!” or later album gems “Shaping the End” and seething, hardcore-flavored “Worldcraft,” are just a handful of fine examples of Inhale/Exhale‘s many strengths and endearing power.

Nasum always had a unique gift of writing dynamic grind songs, differing greatly from their peers in this regard, especially within a genre that can be found guilty of being overly one-dimensional. Mieszko was a fantastic guitarist, who seemingly had an infinite supply of killer riffs, while Jakobson left his mark as one of grind’s truly elite drummers. Aside from the immense power and quality of each composition, Inhale/Exhale boasted a killer production job, focusing on thick, buzzing, and organic tones, a keen balance of clarity and heft, and just enough rough edges to keep things honest and gritty. The DR8 master provided ample breathing space. Also, it should be noted that Mieszko and Jakobson created this monster as a duo, capturing lightning in a bottle with their shared chemistry and combined talents.

Inhale/Exhale remains an essential slice of grind history, a debut album of mammoth proportions, and late ’90s grind classic, kick-starting a powerhouse career of worldwide grind dominance from Nasum. Although their ending was a tragic one, Nasum‘s legacy is set in concrete, leaving an indelible imprint in the history books of grind. Inhale/Exhale is a critical early statement from a timeless band and a surefire grind classic not to be missed.