National Music Reviews June 2016

Review: NAILS – You Will Never Be One of Us

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NAILS
You Will Never Be One of Us

Nuclear Blast
Street: 06.17
NAILS = Pig Destroyer + Weekend Nachos + Die My Will

“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” –Mark Twain.

This quote is the perfect descriptor for NAILS, in that NAILS is writing the short letter. It’s as if, when writing any record, they compress all of their rage, fury and musical ideas to their core, leaving only blasting, sub-one-minute diamonds through their effort. There’s no fat—no meandering. No album of theirs has topped 25 minutes to my knowledge, and this is still true on You Will Never Be One of Us. This distillation and obvious self-editing makes what could be an otherwise exhausting listen stay vital. It also points to a band that is meticulous in crafting every aspect of what they’re putting to tape. There are no jazz odysseys to be found here.

That’s not to say that everything on You Will Never Be One of Us works. With this being their third album, NAILS have a specific formula that they follow, and they’re sticking to it. This can cause some of the tracks to bleed into one another, with differentiation becoming more difficult. Fortunately, well-timed tempo shifts mostly divert that issue.

Few bands have as many bangers that make youwant to crack skulls as does NAILS. Breakdowns became a joke in the aughts with the proliferation of deathcore and metalcore, but we are over a decade past that deluge now, and it’s time for double-time neck breakers to be done tastefully—and NAILS never fail. “Violence is Forever,” in particular, has a groove that harkens back to the days of the heaviness found on Pin Drop records, and it hits hard.

The album title and title track are as subtle a thesis as their band name would imply. NAILS are one of the few bands whose anger fully translates into their music. Through watching their video for “You Will Never Be One of Us,” I gathered that the samples in the intro to the album are recordings of elder statesmen of metal/hardcore/punk espousing this sentiment. John Baizely (Baroness) and Jacob Bannon (Converge), among others, are sampled, informing those who wish to squeeze personal gain from this underground scene that they are unwelcome: “You will never be one of us.” It’s a bold statement, particularly in the current climate of discussions about the underground as a welcoming place for all. But it’s also an important statement. In a time where everything seems to be a commodity bought and sold and boosted on Facebook, the underground is still fighting to maintain its authenticity. Whether that’s possible is for a different time, but what’s true is that NAILS and their ilk want people to know that they will fight for their passion, that this isn’t a cash grab or a scene to be strip-mined.

My only complaint is in the production. Kurt Ballou coaxes huge sounds out of the instruments he’s producing, but the recording is mastered so loudly that guitars fade into white noise, and overall, everything sits focused in the center, aurally. There are fast-moving riffs all over this record, but I have no idea what they are because they’re lost in the din of loud, louder, loudest. Maybe that’s what they’re going for—an all-out assault—and to that end, they’ve succeeded. But, if you’re going to clearly put the time in to write the heaviest of the heaviest, you should want people to know. –Peter Fryer