This review will be short, because it would be a disservice to You Will Never Be One of Us, the latest full-length record from Oxnard, California’s NAILS, to use more words than necessary to get to the point, which is that this album is dangerously good.
Clocking in just shy of 22 minutes, You Will Never Be One of Us is devoid of filler. You see, there is no room for filler when you pack a galactic quantity of highly concentrated riff devastation into a mere ten songs. But what truly elevates NAILS’ new effort above the pile of run-of-the-mill grind and dark hardcore crushers is the clarity with which you will remember each song’s onslaught.
Every riff and idea on You Will Never Be One of Us is crafted to land a satisfying knockout. Thirty-five seconds into the opening title track, lead singer and guitarist Todd Jones and drummer Taylor Young deliver a syncopated bass drum-led riff that is so monumentally threatening and propulsive, I fear that too many listens will drive me to put my fist through my coffee table. While 2013’s Abandon All Life was equally brutalizing, each track on the new record has me masochistically reaching for the repeat button, especially on tracks like “Violence is Forever” and “Life is A Death Sentence.” Stylistically, while the album is quintessentially NAILS, the band has incorporated a far wider range of influences; elements of death metal, Slayer-style thrash, and fuzzed-out sludge (especially on final track “They Come Crawling Back,” which has a distinct Acid Bath feel to it) give the record a far broader sonic palette.
The attention to detail NAILS have put into this collection of songs amplifies the album’s overarching theme of a lifetime dedication to one’s passions. While the album’s title may sound exclusionary, the record is meant to act as a rallying cry to the lifers who authentically devote themselves to extreme music.
The production on this record is unsurprisingly good, as the band have once again returned to Kurt Ballou’s God City Studio. Ballou is the undisputed master at recording HM-2 guitar distortion, and his encyclopedic knowledge and deep love and respect for heavy music has helped shape the sound of countless bands. With NAILS, Ballou’s production provides both crystal clarity and a satisfying heft, meaning that the album feels live and raw, but you can hear every single detail.
When asked about the writing of this album, Todd Jones said, “We purposely make music that’s supposed to be like a hammer to the skull.” While I don’t disagree, what makes You Will Never Be One of Us Special is that the hammer is swung claw-side first; these songs will dig deep into your grey matter and be almost impossible to remove without doing serious damage.
Written by Jesse Gainer
*edited by Kate Erickson