Nails are one of those bands that a lot of people hear about – and a lot of band members rep on-stage by wearing their shirts – but until now I had put off listening to them. So their third full-length, and first for Nuclear Blast, You Will Never Be One Of Us, was my introduction to the band, and I now understand both why so many people are diehard fans, and why so few people are casual fans.[columns] [column size=”1/3″]
Album Title: You Will Never Be One of Us
Release Date: 17 June 2016
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Nails songs are short. Several of the ten track here clock in at under a minute, and only two of them top two minutes. But they cram as many riffs into these tunes as any other band, simply eschewing the idea of verses or choruses on most songs in favor of sheer aggression. Starting with the opening burst of the title track, Nails waste no time making a statement. Discordant squealing guitars resolve into a frantic, pummeling grindcore drive. Guitarist and vocalist Todd Jones rails against… well, everything, throwing out cathartic, vulgar tirades against anyone who is deemed unworthy. The galloping riff that takes over around 45 seconds in is one of the purest circle pit riffs in recent memory, and the song makes an excellent first impression. “Friend To All” is a 46 second maelstrom of blastbeats and scratchy guitars, which morphs into a 2-step stomp and back before abruptly ending. “Made To Make You Fall” also clocks in at under a minute. The intro riff is a beast, but obviously doesn’t last very long, and the rest of the song is a drone of muddy anger that fails to lift off.
“Life Is A Death Sentence” is equally discordant, with so much hyperkinetic thrashing going on that the song gets lost in the noise, at least until the massive headbanging riff of the “chorus.” “Violence Is Forever” is the first song to top two minutes in length, and it shows why Nails focus on short and the opposite of sweet. Extending to more than twice the length of any previous song at 3 ½ minutes, “Violence Is Forever” is the first song to be hookless. The riffs are competent, but not memorable, and the repeated phrases wear out their welcome by the end of the song. “Savage Intolerance” is much better, charging right out of the gate with a galloping riff, and featuring an earth-shattering breakdown a minute in, albeit not the sort of breakdown metalcore fans are used to – there’s no chug to be found here, just a different tempo riff that flattens everything in its path. “In Pain” is a minute of pure grindcore anger: it’s not particularly memorable on the album, but I can see it causing bloodshed live.
“Parasite” manages to morph twice in less than a minute, starting as a chaotic continuation of “In Pain” adopting a classic thrash-era-Metallica swing-stomp and then back to chaos. “Into Quietus” rides a galloping series of blastbeats and a muddy but mighty riff (wait for the guitar to drop out and the bass to lead a measure) before abruptly switching to a 2-step slam. Final track “They Come Crawling Back” throws the previous nine tracks out the window, stretching to a massive 8 minutes long, and it’s both the best and worst song here. The slow, sinister intro is longer than most of the band’s songs, and is a masterpiece of mood. The song actually loses momentum when the vocals enter, although the Zakk Wylde inspired main riff is sublime. At around the 4 ½ minute mark, the vocals drop out completely and the band enters a repetitive, atonal riff that is nonetheless interesting due to what sounds like a combination of taps and a slide during the riff’s focal point. After a minute of this, though, the song starts to collapse under its own weight. Cut in half, this song would be hands down the best tune on the record, but the extended outro fails to hold the listener’s attention and by the time the song ends, you’ve been waiting for it to be over for a while.
Nails are a difficult band to like. They seem to view melody as a vile curse word, but that doesn’t prevent them from being quite musical. Their aggression is invigorating, but also exhausting. The mix fits their style, but it also so muddy it can be off-putting. Nails is a study in contradictions. For those willing to embrace those, I can see why they are a cult favorite. For those who find that task too daunting, Nails will be one of the most unappealing bands they have ever heard.