June 28, 2016
Nearly every Metal/Hardcore fan has been asked the question, “Isn’t that kind of music nothing but angry screaming and loud banging on instruments?”
It is a question posed by the outsider, based on uninformed assumptions about the music, the artists who create it, and the fans who live for it. Distortion, intensity, and abrasiveness do not have to equal anger.
It is an extreme expression, and frequently over-the-top presentation, of the full human experience turned up to 11. But, on occasion, rage is the absolute center of that expression.
Which brings us to the third full length release by the Grindcore/Power violence trio, Nails’ You Will Never Be One of Us — coincidentally, also their longest release to date clocking in at over 21 minutes. To the uninitiated, this might very well seem a maelstrom of screaming, percussion, and distortion. To be fair, that is exactly what Nails presents the listener, but with precision, intention, and an understanding of arrangement which is rare in this most over the top subgenre of Metal/Punk.
You Will Never… is a very natural continuation of the songs and musical approach presented on Nails’ previous album, Abandon All Life, in that it manages to balance an absolutely pummeling Grindcore blast with catchy Hardcore, Thrash, and old-school Death Metal-esque hooks and riffs. This is incredibly important in Grindcore, as a failure to incorporate variety can make even minute-long songs arduous. Even so, these are not songs in the standard sense, but much as flash-fiction does in literature,
Grindcore songs deliver the iron-hard outline and powerful emotional impression of something that goes far deeper. Think the jagged edge of a wound that runs through internal organs themselves.
In this, Nails are very successful, more so than on the past albums. Riffs, tempo changes, blasts, and hooks combine create a strong continuity despite the brevity of the tracks.
The title track, “You Will Never Be One of Us,” is the opening song (and the first single for which a video was produced). The message of this song is clear: Nails are not band for the hipsters, trendies, or temporary rebels in their youthful angst.
Nails give zero fucks about what is cool now or what will be cool next week.
By juxtaposition, this is very much a message of inclusion for those who understand, and that this music is far more than “angry screaming and banging on their instruments.”
The album is fairly consistent musically, but the most interesting tracks really happen on the latter half of the album with “Violence is Forever,” which most effectively mixes their influences. “Savage Intolerance” and “Into Quietus” are also stand out songs, and catchy enough to achieve full earworm status. It ends with an eight minute long, crushingly slow and doomy track “They Come Crawling Back,” which seems all the more ominous given the tempo and length.
Production is provided once again by Kurt Ballou (Converge) who unsurprisingly provides an absolutely crushing and heavy sound.
The clarity is lost, somewhat, compared to past releases, but still crisp and (thankfully) not over-polished. If there is one criticism for this album, it is that Todd Jones and company are capable of injecting more experimentalism and creativity without compromising their vision and You Will Never… while incredibly be good, could have been even better with that such daring.
Months ago, when I actually saw a guy wearing a Nails shirt at the gym, in addition to the patches and shirts I started seeing at local shows, I knew this band was drawing real attention.
Nails, perhaps ironically given the title of this album, seem to be on the verge of breaking out far beyond what they ever expected. They are booked to play at the Ozzfest-meets-Knotfest in September, and even have landed in the Billboard Top 200, and will likely pop up in the “Best of 2016” Metal lists.
Then again, it is 2016. If you are paying even a modicum of attention to the world, you cannot avoid at least some anger. Most of us are barely containing screams of impotent rage. Nails may very well be the perfect sonic expression of the pain and anger that has become pandemic.