Nails have made one of the best albums of 2016. Since this is only June, I won’t declare it “album of the year” quite yet, but it’s going to be very hard to argue against it.
As an emerging act in 2011, they left me so impressed at that year’s New England Metal and Hardcore Fest that I had a literal “shut up and take my money” moment (I bought a t-shirt). Unsilent Death was an excellent, no-nonsense debut, and Abandon All Life took that style and honed it down to a recognizable signature sound. On You Will Never Be One of Us, Nails takes their sound and launches it into the stratosphere with excellent writing and an unbelievably punishing experience.
In the early 2010’s, Nails emerged alongside a number of similar bands who took the chaotic sounds of bands like Converge and blended it with the buzz-saw guitars of Entombed, Dismember and Carnage – with some Scum and From Enslavement to Obliteration-era Napalm Death thrown in for good measure. But among their peers in Black Breath, Trap Them and All Pigs Must Die, there was always something special and ferocious about Nails that made them stand out. And as great as those bands are, You Will Never Be One of Us catapults Nails into top-tier metal and hardcore status.
Whereas Black Breath chose to leave the hardcore side of their sound behind with their recent album, Nails retains this edge with circle-pit and fist-throwing sections blended in seamlessly with the mix of death metal and grindcore. Nails accomplishes what many bands can only dream of doing: craft an album that metalheads, hardcore fans and punks can all appreciate. It’s influences are varied, and yet the sound is cohesive and well put-together.
Aside from the obvious, almost gleeful, misanthropy displayed on tracks like “Friend to All,” “Life is a Death Sentence” (winner: best song title of 2016) and “Violence is Forever,” the album’s overall message is one of dedication to music. In a recent interview, frontman Todd Jones notes that:
You Will Never Be One of Us is about how you and I dedicate our lives and passion to music. I listen, write, I buy and I play music and it’s really what I do aside from work and hanging with my family. Music is what I like to do as a hobby and pastime. I feel like I dedicate myself to it in a positive way. I’d say that I gave more to music than I really took from it. You Will Never Be One of Us is about when you see someone come around and they’re in it for all the wrong reasons. Music doesn’t pay my bills and I don’t make money off it…
I point this out, not just because of what it says about the band’s commitment to the creative process, but how this way of doing this is becoming the norm for extreme music (and most music anyway). And it shows that when a band is allowed the space to create for its own sake, the product it comes up with can be far superior and enduring than other simply made to cash out. That said, this album definitely deserves some serious commercial success to go along with its stellar artistic achievement.
You Will Never Be One of Us is brief, brutal and devastatingly effective. The beats make you want to jump into the pit, the sudden breaks-into-blastbeats catch you off-guard and get your blood moving, and the vocals are stridently in-your-face. It’s everything an extreme music fan could want.
Favorite Songs: "You Will Never Be One of Us," "Friend to All," "Life is a Death Sentence," "Violence is Forever"