Overall Score: 9/10 Breakdowns: 8/10 Vocals: 9/10 Solos: 7/10 Pros: Amazing vocal performance | Memorable riffs | Brutal instrumentation Cons: Possibly the last NAILS record | Runs together somewhat in the middle
Until very recently, NAILS were a powerviolence and grindcore band from California, who’d built up a sizeable cult following based on their standout debut album “Unsilent Death” and its equally spectacular follow up, “Abandon All Life”. Just weeks after releasing their third album, “You Will Never Be One Of Us”, the band split up. Without warning, they posted a brief statement online and cancelled all future tour dates, including UK dates scheduled for later this year. This album, then, could prove to be their final one – and if it does, it’s an incredible high to go out on.
This album is NAILS longest one, clocking in at a “lengthy” 21 minutes. Still, the opener and opening salvo of a title track, “You Will Never Be One Of Us” lasts just one minute and twenty nine seconds, though this is by no means the shortest track on the listing with many finishing under the minute mark. The band waste little of their precious time with introductions, spending just the first twenty seconds of the album menacingly repeating the title like a motto, the murmurs ever growing in intensity whilst bathing amongst screeching guitar feedback before exploding into action. Once the music explodes, it doesn’t let up until the 8 minute closing track, “They Come Crawling Back” grinds to a halt.
Listening to a NAILS record is like being thrust into a war zone. From all angles, there’s something ugly happening; whether it be the brutal, down tuned guitars of the guitarist and singer Todd Jones, the intense drumming of Taylor Young or Jones’ howls, there is no escape from the chaos. The guitar playing on “You Will Never Be One Of Us” is mostly comprised of staccato, pounding rhythms backed up by hefty bass riffs and intense breakdowns recalling greats of the metallic hardcore genre like Hatebreed and Madball. The tone of the guitars is superb, with a full sound that lands with a dull, bassy crunch that is uniquely NAILS. Occasionally, the songs do take a long enough break from steamrollering through everything in their path to include a distorted guitar solo or two, proving that the band have more to offer than simple buffoonish aggressiveness.
The only weak spots in the album are when this aggressiveness causes the songs to run together in the middle of the album, though individually they are strong including “Life Is a Death Sentence” and “Violence Is Forever” back to back may have been a rare misstep, as they share a similar structure whilst many of the other songs on the record carve their own path.
The production on “You Will Never Be One Of Us” is something quite incredible in and of itself. In a sub genre that lives or dies based on the sound of its instrumentation, NAILS manage to secure a sound that is entirely their own and entirely heavy – the guitars hit hard, the drums pound and the vocals are genuinely, genuinely menacing. Lots of yells, screams and growls seem contrived to fit with genre expectations – NAILS vocalist Jones, however, seems horrifically angry, scary and fearsome. The vocals have a slightly distorted tinge in places, which to points to them being recorded into the microphone at point blank range – either that or Jones is destroying every other new mic as he is handed them and they’re recording whatever noise comes out of them. The band also use stereo sound very well, with one particular use of it on penultimate track “Into Quietus” making it nearly impossible not to head bang along too.
All told, this album is the greatest release of NAILS career and one of the very finest records of the year so far. Hopefully the break that this band are taking will prove to be a short one, because they are a vital part of the underground scene in heavy music and will be missed. If this truly is it though, “You Will Never Be One Of Us” is such an astonishing release that they can be proud to have gone out in a blaze of fury.
You Will Never Be One Of Us is out now on Nuclear Blast Records.