Nails – You Will Never Be One Of Us

5 out of 5

Label: Nuclear Blast

Producer: Kurt Ballou

Punishing.

You know how you get a new hardcore record and you’re like “wow, this is brutal,” but then a few spins later your ears have adjusted to said brutality and you’re wiping the ear-blood away with a shrug?  Then, further down the road, you’ve checked out some more albums from the band, or similar bands, and at that point it almost amounts to easy listening; not that you can discern words, but you can sort of mouth along to the growls, and tap your toe mindlessly to the beat, the double-bass drums and chugging guitars relaxable enough to work as background music.

This isn’t to diminish the power of those albums, more to say that our tolerance adjusts.  What once was noise is now music.

Well, true, I haven’t yet picked up NAILS other albums, but I have listened to plenty of other metal discs between now and then, as well as – owing in part to this disc’s awesomely short runtime – having listened to this particular album probably 50+ times since its release (why not let it just repeat when it’s so good?), and dang, it has yet to lose its edge.  To the point where I want to link any heavy music fan to the video for opening title track single and offer it up as, like, the most metal thing ever.

You can pass me your grindcore or go Metallica with it, but the brief, bleak intensity of that single – of this release – just seems to distill the core violence and emotion of all the genre offshoots and progenitors into a few wonderful minutes.  Of punishment.

Of course, much due praise to Kurt Ballou, or perhaps to the serendipity of this match-up.  NAILS’ fire cannot be faked, but Ballou’s blistering, stereo-rattling production style is the perfect enhancement the group needs to sound that much more threatening.  Kurt’s style is not plug-and-play as such: Some albums need more nuance or subtlety than his forefront style affords.  You Will Never Be is not such an album.

But there’s more to thus than just being aggression – although admittedly, that perhaps the main appeal.  I dare not read the lyrics and discover that we’re singing nursery rhymes or woe is me genericisms, but strictly on a performance level, the vocals are a pitch-perfect blend of guttural hardcore growls with enough discernible words / noises to feel like there are lyrics, and thus something to be pissed about (I do think this is a connection that can fizzle when vocals are too out there on the growly spectrum).  And there’s simply no criticizing the stop-on-a-dime precision of the instrumental attacks, as well as the smart song sequencing / structure that legitimately breaks up the __ tracks into identifiable jams, with a breather “cool down” at album’s end for the eight minute They Come Crawling Back.

So: Seriously, you owe it to yourself.  You owe it to your ears.  All those metal albums have lost a bit of their vitriol, admit it.  Check out You Will Never Be One of Us, and prepare to be pummeled.

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