Nails, Unsilent Death (2010)
Okay, sure, so Nails may be one of the more hyped bands of 2010. Thing is, I was pretty much oblivious to all that hype, and just stumbled across this album at the record store a few weeks back. I had just read the news item that Nails had just signed to Southern Lord and were going to be reissuing this album, so I figured, why not pick up a copy of the Six Feet Under CD issue?
Holy shit, does this record smoke. I suppose the complaints about calling a 13+ minute release a ‘full-length’ are valid, but they sort of miss the point. And in fact, when these dudes get around to putting out another release, I think that will be the real test of their skills, because while this release is nearly perfectly crafted for its running time, it remains to be seen how this sort of material will be handled over a longer expanse.
Stylistically speaking, this record takes a little bit of everything nasty and grimy, throws it in a concrete blender, and lobs noise grenades unmercifully in your general direction. Sure, it’s a bit grindcore, but more like old Napalm Death grind (circa From Enslavement to Obliteration, say) than any of the more modern crop of death/grinders (Pig Destroyer, newer Brutal Truth, Disfear, maybe even fellow Southern Lords Black Breath, and so forth). It’s also a little bit crust, more than a little bit hardcore (this is Todd Jones, ex- of Terror, after all), with a bit of bruising sludge tossed in the slower parts of the two lengthier tracks on display.
Listening to the album, though, doesn’t make it sound quite as much like a convoluted mash-up as I’ve just described it. One of the greatest things this album has going for it is its sense of fluid motion. The three-piece careens from one song to another with great finesse, while keeping the whole affair swathed in a gooey, rattling production, rather like fighting with a badger inside of a dumpster. They also use guitar feedback quite effectively, either in tight, staccato bursts, or as a way to transition between songs.
Also impressive is their ability to write actual songs, even crammed into 30 or 60 second bursts. “Scum Will Rise” is one of the most effective tunes on here, blasting through an identifiable verse-chorus structure before locking into a pummeling breakdown for its final ten seconds. It’s precisely the sort of breakdown that metallers lacking in self-confidence might look askance at, but it’s still far from hardcore thuggishness, so breathe easy, friends. No one will look down on you for stomping around like a maniac.
The guitar tone verges on the classic Swedish death metal sound, but it twins very nicely with the thick, dirty bass tone. In terms of composition, the bass typically follows or doubles the guitar, meaning the songs aren’t generally very intricate, but exceedingly powerful and driven. The title track is a nice example of this, with its sullen, stomping death march feel.
I do hesitate to describe this as grindcore too much, but “Scapegoat” definitely shows Nails at their most Nasum-esque, while a song like “No Servant” is a bit more straight-ahead hardcore/metal with a slightly Slayer-ish guitar solo. Closing track “Depths” might just be the best one here, with its doomed-out opening riff playing like their own filthy version of Black Sabbath’s classic tritone. The tune later breaks into some classic d-beat drum patterns, and eventually sludges its way to an equally doomed-out close after wrecking nearly everything in its path.
The album has a very nice sense of symmetry in its ‘sides’, with each batch of five songs blasting through four short, fast crust/hardcore/grind/death/whatever tunes before closing out with a longer, sludged-up capstone. I’m a sucker for this sort of thing, as it gives the album a sense of thoughtful unity, rather than just a bunch of pissed-off tunes slapped together.
All in all, this is some fierce, filthy noise, and Nails are definitely a band to watch. As I said above, I’ll need to see what they can do on a 25 to 35-minute release before I’m thoroughly convinced, but Unsilent Death is ample cause to be excited for whatever it is that Nails do next.
Overall rating: 78%. Nothing much new, really, but sure as hell kicking the shit out of the old like it’s going out of style.