What can you say about NAILS’ new record You Will Never Be One of Us that hasn’t been said before? Since its release, the praise for the bands’ third full-length record has been nearly universal, with some critics hailing it as possibly the best heavy record of 2016. In some cases this amount of global adoration may be result from nothing more than a combination of internet fanboy over-excitement, a slick record label marketing campaign, and goodwill generated by a band’s previous efforts. Yet after witnessing NAILS systematically annihilate the audience at Les Foufounes Electriques last Monday, I can tell you what I know to be true: this band is the genuine fucking article.
I made it to Fouf’s in time to catch Montreal’s Prowl kick off the evening’s festivities. Prowl are a fairly new group, so I was impressed with their tightness, especially considering the relative complexity of guitarist Jonathan Charette’s riffs. Prowl’s sound hits a particular sweet spot for me in terms of their balance between crossover / thrash dexterity and weighty, primitive-hardcore aggression. The early bird crowd was clearly appreciative; while the room was still filling up, a few members of the “Hardcore Ultimate Fighting Championship” put on a splendid demonstration of Mosh-kwon-do.
Up next were Pittsburgh, PA’s Eternal Sleep. As soon as the band began their set, I felt like I had hopped into the Delorean and went back twenty-odd years to the very early days of metallic hardcore. The riffs were monolithic and slamming, but bathed in atmosphere and permeated with just the right touch of melody. Singer Joseph Sanderson balanced his powerful low-end bark with cleaner sections that perfectly fit the music and didn’t feel cheesy or forced. To say the band’s sound was purely a throwback is a bit of a misnomer; tunes like “Red Herring” and “Straw Man” showcased a plethora of influences, old and new. It was difficult not to get caught up in the group’s energy. Sanderson’s headbangs were so massive, it seemed as if he would somersault at any moment.
Next were God’s Hate, an LA-based hardcore band featuring NAILS’ Taylor Young on guitar. The music had a gratifying heft, with riffs that seemed purposely built to methodically sledgehammer the audience into place. While the tracks were heavy, a bit more variation in speed and tone would have gone a long way. Singer Nate Blauvelt’s rumbling growl was satisfying, albeit rather monotone, and while the track “Admission of Guilt” blasted off with a killer machine-gun riff, it quickly lapsed back into a predicable bounce. Anyway, what the fuck do I know? The quickly growing crowd seemed to dig it, especially the group’s cover of Hatebreed’s “Kill an Addict.”
Unsurprisingly, I was very much looking forward to next act Full of Hell‘s set. This group of nightmare producers are a personal favourite, and each live show I’ve attended has been better than the last. Lead singer and noise maker Dylan Walker began the set by using his elaborate effects board to bathe the audience in droning, oppressive feedback before the band launched into their signature brand of bleak, nihilistic grindcore. Drummer David Bland was in particularly fine form; his ability to balance raw speed and power with complexity and feel added greatly to the set’s dynamic, immersive nature. This immersion was aided by the band’s singular commitment to wrath and fury. There were no smiles or fun banter between songs, and the sense of conviction with which Walker maniacally stalked the stage while wringing every last drop of contempt out of his larynx was palatable. The band hopped around their growing discography, even playing personal favorites “Amber Mote” and “Vessel Deserted”.
“We’re fucking NAILS! SLAM SLAM SLAM!” bellowed Todd Jones, simultaneously introducing the band and instructing the audience to pummel each other before launching into “God’s Cold Hands.” The room was at near capacity, and while the tight space combined with the oppressive humidity would normally dull an audience’s exuberance, the crowd showed no signs of fatigue, going even more batshit bannanas when the band propelled into “You Will Never Be One of Us.” NAILS seemed to feed off of the crowd’s energy, playing with a sense of confidence and conviction. Jones seemed touched by the crowds fervor, regularly thanking the audience between songs. NAILS varied up the pace by peppering their almost universally breakneck set with DM-inflected slow jam “Wide Open Wounds,” and eight minute dirge “They Come Crawling Back.” After ending their set with the punishing “Unsilent Death,” the crowd instantly cried out for more and NAILS quickly rejoined the stage. “Encores are cheesy as fuck, but we can’t say no to you guys!” sneered Jones, before the band ripped into closing track “Scapegoat.”
The confidence with which NAILS perform should not be confused for ego or entitlement. This is a group who believe in the quality of their craftsmanship, and that earnest conviction can’t help but shine through on stage. Fans of heavy music, I entreat you; believe the fucking hype.
Written by Jesse Gainer
Photography by Nathan Hum
*edited by Kate Erickson