Angry music ain’t easy. Maintaining peak levels of disgust with sociopolitical hierarchies, religious bastardization, or the human race in general takes a lot of elbow grease—particularly over the course of a full-length record. Nails have it figured out, though: Don’t trifle. Since 2009 the SoCal grind merchants have forged a punishing blend of machine-gun blast-beats, damaged riffs, and vocals that seethe and blister with the wrongdoings of mankind. And they often do it all in less than a minute’s time. Imagine catching a fleeting glimpse of an artillery of tanks engulfed in flames barreling by your living room window, but by the time you dart out your front door to get a better look, it’s vanished. That’s how so much of Nails’ Nuclear Blast debut You Will Never Be One Of Us functions. The demolition is swift and the carnage scorched.
The opening title track is quintessential Nails—that is, if you’re at all familiar with the trio’s previous Unsilent Death (2010) and Abandon All Life (2013). With a foreword that features hardcore fixtures like Converge’s Jacob Bannon, Youth Code’s Sara Taylor and Ryan George, and Baroness’ John Baizley reciting the inviting mantra “You will never be one of us,” the scourge bursts forth via a primal, gruff bark from head honcho Todd Jones. What follows is a barrage of sudden-shifting rhythms—drummer Taylor Young is liberal yet on-a-dime with his double-kick pedal—and a flair for the spiteful as Jones brandishes a weather-beaten, painstakingly resilient outlook. Nails has long flaunted elements of late-’90s tough-guy hardcore—footnoted by Jones’ neck, which is basically a tree trunk—but the attack has always been so accelerated and volatile that they transcend the schmaltz of that scene.
Ragers from the record like “Friend To All” and “Made To Make You Fall”—which includes a rocket-fueled D-beat and enough of a crack in the veneer to allow for a screaming, split-second solo—are complemented by some of Nails’ most nimble material. “Violence Is Forever” nearly feels like a structured pop single by comparison: It marches along with a floor-tom-heavy beat that offers Jones plenty of room to bang his head and finishes with one of the album’s gnarlier outros of guitar noise. Plus Jones is much more adventurous with his thrashy soloing and super-riffs, allowing for the occasional opportunity to catch your fucking breath. Because even for a brief album, the Kurt Ballou-produced You Will Never Be One Of Us can sound like it’s imploding in on itself. At least that’s what the eight-minute-plus closer “They Come Crawling Back” (over one-third the length of the entire record) seems to be trying to accomplish as Nails constructs towers of noise tall enough to blot out the sun.