Well the awful Christmas give-an-xbox-game-to-someone-to-celebrate-the-not-birthday-of-someone-who-probably-never-existed-in-the-first-place period is upon us once again and I’m feeling a little heavy, so I dug out this one from the bowels of my computer. I’ve been sitting on it for a while and I’ve been working on a big project that ain’t yet finished so here we are. Sometimes you gotta try a little extremity, and that’s what Nails provide. As Bob Stanhope put it, don’t eat the mushroom stem and see colours; eat the whole bag and see God”. The music is at least as violent, straightforwardly brutal and stripped down as the name Nails would suggest. Nails spectacularly and yet with indifference cast off many of the notions that plague extreme metal these days; the desire for extreme and completely needless speed and technicality, there are no acoustic introduction songs that are as necessary as a soft drink at a beer festival. All of these completely unnecessary accoutrements are thrown down around Nails’ feet in favour of short, powerful songs, sludgy production and some of the most instantly catchy and immediately satisfying riffs of any metal releases for quite a long time. Nails take the distinguishing marks of the grindcore genre and make them into features and strengths. Nails songs are short, often not reaching the two minute mark, but for grindcore they are pretty long; Nails understand that the briefness of a song needn’t separate it from quality instrumentation, but also know that an extremely short song can make for a powerful statement. For being a grindcore band, and a pretty obscure one too, it was surprising to me just how accessible and enjoyable it was on the first listen, I guess riffs are just a universal language.
Obscene Humanity, the beginning
I actually downloaded Obscene Humanity as an industrial point about how terrible grindcore was, how it could never get out of this clichéd downer funk. The title, the Spartan album artwork, the playtime just reaching ten minutes. I settled down with my headphones to really enjoy hating it. I hadn’t done research into Nails at that point. To me they were just another grindcore band that would from the locus of an article I was writing for an online metal magazine. I listened, and was in awe. From the first track I realised, in the middle of the grindcore fury of pounding drums, heavy vocals, thrashing guitar and powderised and largely forgotten bass; suddenly came a calm and the drums, bass and guitar formed a stunning riff-cycle that recalled different influences. Sabbath, the whole of doom metal all along with thrash came pouring into my ears and I realised that Nails were truly something special. I ought to have seen it coming really, Nails are assembled from ex-camo short wearing hardcore bands. At some point they must have found themselves broken down in the creepy forest, after walking for several miles they found a dark abandoned house. None of the band could sleep, so they stayed up all night eating steroids and drinking blood, and in the morning, Nails was born in earnest. A grindcore band with a huge desire for crisp, clean riffs which would be simply stunning to people used to grindcore albums so overpopulated with complex instrumentation that they are functionally unlistenable without a well-trained ear. At the time this ten minute EP became a bit of an addiction, racking up over a hundred listens, according to iTunes. What was most stunning looking back, which I didn’t overtly notice at the time, was that Nails’ ten minute debut sounded like it was far longer. Unsilent Death was the same way but even more so. Nails managed to pack so many ideas and moments into an album that could come to pass three times over the course of a single song by another band. This EP also established the structure for Unsilent Death, short songs, usually just over a minute long, with showpiece tracks (in the case of this EP, the three minute Lies). As I said, Nails take the grindcore idea of songs often not reaching the minute counter and use them to make real statements. In a space of time that Earth or Nadja would find difficult to construct a complete intro, Nails manage a complete song and it doesn’t even seem rushed.
Coming back to Obscene Humanity, there are many things I notice retrospectively that were more apparent in Unsilent Death. Both records appear to be either a single piece of music cut into songs, or several longer songs chopped up. There is a sense of coherence which bonds all the songs together. There are flaws with Obscene Humanity, the production doesn’t hinder it making its staggering point but could be improved upon (and indeed, was). It is after all, an EP as well, and EPs are rather like the short stories of the musical world. A single idea, with more focus and less scope than an album. It was evidence of something really special mounting on the horizon. A wave that would, if allowed in, redefine grindcore and all of extreme metal, certainly for me.
Unsilent Death, Nails come good
In a lot of ways, the Nails album artwork tells the story of the evolution between Obscene Humanity and Unsilent Death; bare, barren, stripped of all unnecessary elements, but their first full length release(still clocking in at only thirteen minutes) was more fleshed out, furnished with even more awareness of their idea. The songs are more extreme in every way. A bump in the production budget has led to more clarity in the sound (the sludgy production was never a problem before, but more clarity is always good). Where previously, the sound would drop out of grindcore and into churning riffs, especially on Unsilent Death’s title track, the unstoppable riffage comes along to accompany the chorus and smacks unmistakably of a band who have found their confident feet in the music they’re creating. Unsilent Death is easily one of the harshest and most ragged sonic assaults of 2010. If you’re a fan of the vicious punk of the eighties, or you like metal, why not enjoy the combination of the two in Nails, for me; the apotheosis of the form for hardcore – you won’t find a harsher hardcore album anywhere out there.