Nails - Abandon All Life 12 inch
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Nails are making some of the most thrillingly extreme music right now but the California quartet is difficult to recommend casually. They cram their brief, constantly shifting tracks with a chaotic blend of hardcore, D-Beat, grindcore, powerviolence, and death metal. It's complex music that plows ahead while moving internally in dozens of directions.
But technical descriptions don't capture what they do so well. When Southern Lord picked up and re-released their 2010 debut LP Unsilent Death after its smaller first pressing sold out, they offered a comparison of 90s AmRep bands and early Cro-Mags going faster than either. That sort of works. So does Eyehategod's songbook played by 2013 Converge. This music is more suffocating than it is Suffocation; it also pulls largely from hardcore and comes with plenty of raw emotion attached to it.
Unsilent Death's 10 tracks sped past in 14 minutes; Abandon All Life's 10 tracks just barely break the 17-minute mark. Both releases were produced by Converge's Kurt Ballou. It's assured, sturdy music, and Ballou knows how to make it sound deep and strong. (He does an even better job of it on the huge-sounding new collection.) With this kind of material you also need a vocalist who can stand up to it, and Todd Jones (who used to play in the hardcore band Terror) keeps up with the mutating landscape behind him: he scowls, snarls, howls, screams, spits, and even quietly sighs (in the black metal minor scales and Celtic Frost-like opening of standout "Wide Open Wound"). At times he feels like a conductor holding together a maelstrom, and when he repeatedly shouts "I want to see you suffer" in the 42-second-long "Tyrant" and "My goal: cause you pain" in the 55-second-long "No Surrender", you believe the sentiments, even though his approach brings a lot of pleasure.