Nails is a four-piece hate machine from California, signed to none other than Southern Lord Records. They play an extremely chaotic brand of deathgrind/grindcore that draws influence primarily from genre mainstays like Nasum, Trap Them, His Hero is Gone, and All Pigs Must Die. Since their first record, they’ve grown more and more organized, evolving from a no-frills grind band to leaning more into the realms of death metal-influenced dark hardcore, sometimes with a small side of doom. These more modern influences come out particularly on tracks like, “Wide Open Wound,” that use droning guitars and slow, chunky riffs to effect despair and bleakness. The screams are grindy and abrasive as ever, and help to add the band’s signature onto a style that’s becoming more and more conventional in hardcore. The track is long and slow, and contrasts with virtually the entirety of the band’s discography, which probably indicates a positive maturity in songwriting, and proves that they aren’t afraid to shun typical genre confines.
The following song, the title track, is almost equal ly creative in its own right. The fuzz and static are scathing and the drums punishing, and it only gets heavier when it slows down towards the end. Guitar scrapes add to the utter musical anarchy, then feedback transitions into the one-two-three punch of “No Surrender,” “Pariah,” and “Cry Wolf.” The riffs are fast, and as intense as and comparable to bringers-of-chaos like Coke Bust and Magrudergrind. As insane as they might be, they’re sometimes just too repetitive and lose some of their weight. Although they can definitely write a mean-ass riff, it seems that they struggle to make songs have real volatility, real dynamics and shifts that can hook a listener and bolster a mood (if executed properly).
When that trilogy finishes, the listener finds his or herself the victim of an opening riff, so heavy that it brings to mind brutal NY death metallers like Incantation and Immolation. The rest of this track, “Suum Cuique,” (means “To each his own,” or “To each what he deserves.”) is no less voracious. It’s slow and pummeling, and showcases more doom metal influence than you’ll find in most hardcore/grindcore bands today. The down-tempo outro, while uncharacteristic for Nails or grind in general, fits the intended atmosphere perfectly. I have to say, it also seems to be positioned more thoughtfully than “Wide Open Wound,” which to some might seem out of place because of its length and crackly, sludgy, and almost doomy nature.
Overall, Nails seems to really have come into their own with Abandon All Life. They have found a solid middle ground between grindcore, dark hardcore, death metal, sludge, and doom metal, and have excellently blended these influences in order to strike a serious chord with an audience hungry for hopelessness. The sound is huge and uncompromising, unrelenting and impatient, frantic and harrowing, and altogether compelling. And although it sometimes seems to be a little too much and just bottoms out atmospherically, It’s a logical progression that should still keep a fanbase on its toes, while also allowing the individuals in the band to explore their own ideas and inspirations to make Nails truly its own beast.