I basically only use axe, I go for blades only for enemies that resist axe (like some have that charm) and big swarms everyone else, even fast enemies I grind them on the axe and as much as possible I keep the distance and keep throwing, otherwise Give me God of War is almost impossible in several battles.
In the higher difficulty you really have to use your elemental effects as those will either stun or improve a lot on damage in GOW fights. Building up frost and then switching to blades and adding fire add that extra damage. You can also upgrade the moves you use the most to deal better damage, elemental or stun by going to niflheim and practicing those moves. It really makes a big difference in delivering damage since the harder difficulty you can basically get one shot and the enemies are basic sponges for damage.
I usually finish the game on balance first before trying the harder modes because you cannot really perform those nice combos because the enemies just power through most attacks and do not stagger or stun as much.