NAILS have made a point of clarifying that the meaning behind the name You Will Never Be One of Us is not rooted in perceived superiority or antagonistic elitism. Instead, it’s a stab at sycophants, those who would appropriate the banner of alternative culture for “cool” status and their own agenda, while being just as much a toast to the lifers who put their blood, sweat and tears into this community. It’s an album title that is the kind of no bullshit confrontational statement that suits them down to the ground, because as a musical entity since their inception NAILS have been nothing if not that.
Even so, when the opening title track on NAILS’ third album lunges wildly forward after a wall of feedback and voices proclaiming the album’s title, it still feels like a shock. We should be used to this level of intense bruising from NAILS by now, but just as Abandon All Life took the punkish squall of Unsilent Death into hellish subterranean lairs and flayed its skin, You Will Never Be One of Us takes what NAILS have released thus far and hones it to its sharpest point. The title track is the best one and a half minutes of music NAILS have created in their career, totally encapsulating what they do at its peak from the initial gurgle to the pummelling mosh riff that occupies its latter half.
At a mere twenty-two minutes You Will Never Be One of Us still manages to be the lengthiest NAILS release to date, and it’s still a frantic fight to the death as the likes of Parasite and Friend to All blitz by with the latter managing to feature its shout-along refrain twice within the first seventeen seconds. At the same time though, this is NAILS’ most diverse and most sophisticated album. Todd Jones’ vocals are not only at their most powerful, never cracking as they sometimes would on Unsilent Death and having far more character and presence than on Abandon All Life, but delivering their best hooks while never stepping an inch towards any kind of melody. Literally every riff on offer is not just serviceable but a bullseye winner of a thing, Jones recalling the kind of knockout ratio at such wicked speed as Scott Hull on PIG DESTROYER’s landmark Prowler in the Yard, only taking breaks to contort his guitar in creeping noisy fits like during the final minute of Violence is Forever. This is taken to its absolute apex during the final ten minutes, Into Quietus’ lumbering climax leading into the mammoth They Come Crawling Back, taking up nearly a third of the overall runtime and is the kind of monster NAILS had only hinted at with tracks like Suum Cuique. If this album’s opening track is the perfect summary of NAILS as a band, the closing track shows what they can be capable of. The Wrest-painted album cover feels most fitting here as its intro recalls the menace of LEVIATHAN before trudging through section after section of sheer trauma, shedding its skin as it goes along peaking with a pick-scraping riff so obscenely good it’s hard not to combust.
If powerviolence is hardcore played with a metallic grindcore mindset, then NAILS have it encased in a suit of armour covered in spikes, the aural equivalent of being locked in an iron maiden tumbling down the stairs. Kurt Ballou is the kind of superstar producer this particular corner of the heavy music spectrum never knew it needed and obviously always kills it, but this is crazy even for him. Every guitar note and especially every snare hit (Taylor Young’s snare on this album was made by Ballou himself for this recording, and it’s a fat, hulking thing of beauty) is like a volcanic eruption, preventing any of it from blending together and making it impossible to become desensitised to such a vitriolic assault over the course of its runtime. Put simply, this is the new benchmark for what albums of this kind should sound like. Often on this record, SLAYER feels like the most apt comparison; not because NAILS have suddenly donned bullet belts and jumped on the thrash revival bandwagon about five years too late, far from it, but because just as in the mid-80s SLAYER seemed to be condensing the extreme sounds of the time into the most hard-hitting and volatile packages possible and pushing everything that one step further, NAILS are here to do just that thirty years later. This is where their reputation as the hardest band on the planet fulfils itself, and anything further is a terrifying proposition.
You Will Never Be One of Us is set for release on June 17 via Nuclear Blast Records.
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