Imagine as, late one afternoon in about mid summer, you ride your bike on your way home, an orange-red sunset illuminating your back. All around you you hear the sounds of birds chirping, the occasional car going by, and, somewhere buried in the distance, you can even hear children laughing and screaming with glee as they play outside. It’s a beautiful day, and you can’t imagine what could possibly ruin it when, suddenly, out of nowhere, a large eighteen wheeler comes roaring out of nowhere and pulls up beside you. Suddenly, without warning, the door closest to you swings open, knocking you off of your bike and onto the ground. A man steps out, vaguely familiar, who then proceeds to beat you with a tire iron until you can no longer move.
Again, as he looms over you, his face seems oddly familiar but, regardless, you cannot place it. Eventually, as you lay there bruised and incapacitated, you begin to notice new features. For instance, he is far closer than you are comfortable with and his breath reeks of fish. He also has a long scar going from the top of his eye to somewhere near the bottom of his chin, and you seem to recall it somehow, but still you cannot place it. The man standing before you, despite seeming so instantly recognizable, so well defined by his fish breath and deep scar, remains a mystery to you, yet still lingers in your thoughts, even as you fade from consciousness while wait for an EMT to arrive.
Much the same as your mystery man is Nails as the band approaches their third album, the always inviting You Will Never Be One Of US. So much seems instantly recognizable from initial listens, such as Todd Jones’ always intense vocals, the heavy hitting of drummer Taylor Young, or the unforgiving, thick bass tone of Joe Gianelli, yet the band still shows a side of Nails on this record that has yet to be seen. It has the trademark sludge-drenched, dismal tone of Abandon All Life, yet there is an undeniable swing back towards the hooks that made Unsilent Death so initially appealing. Among all of this, adding a new layer of chaos and pain to an already punishing sound, is a seeming exploration of the band’s HM2 heavy death metal roots. It is subtle, often so expertly mixed into the average Nails assault that it is hard to miss, but adds an extra amount of aggression that makes an already impressive offering that much more alluring.
A large part of what helps Nails to sell YWNBOOU, however, is the very sincerity with which they deliver their message. Perhaps this is best displayed in the title track (and opener) of the record, which helps to beautifully set the tone for the rest of the record. The song opens with samples from several notable hardcore and metal musicians repeating the mantra, expressing not exclusivity, but rather the idea that those truly dedicated to extreme music will always have it in their blood, and will never truly be able to leave it. However, despite using these samples to set up how the record will proceed, what really sets the tone is the song itself. It begins with an unholy roar of double bass that immediately pounds its way into straight into the listeners skull, giving them little break before a short burst of blast and d-beats leads into another drum driven breakdown. Truly, this is a record with a massive drum sound, and the fact that Nails uses the expert, distinctly percussive sound of drummer Taylor Young adds a layer of depth and urgency that Unsilent Death and Abandon All Life felt they were missing even at their fiercest moments. It’s some of the best drumming of his career, and possibly some of the most notable in recent hardcore/metal memory, and helps to sell the “chunkier” sound that Nails was aiming for with this record.
The drumming is not all that is notable on this record, however, and in general it seems as if the band has stepped up their overall musical proficiency and prowess, helping them to further develop their stupidly heavy niche. Todd Jones has always been an excellent riff writer, but it almost seems as if now, with their deeper, chunkier approach on YWNBOOU, he has had more freedom to explore, creating heavy, punishing riffs such as overly-satisfying syncopated groove of “Made to Make You Fail” (seriously, that riff is so god damn nice). The excellent part about Jones expanding his guitar playing, however, is that it has also given Joe Gianelli, a bass player who has always had one of the best tones and sense of rhythm in modern heavy music, more apt room to shine. He not only adds overall depth of sound, but bounces off Young’s drumming and Jones’ riffs so well that if you were to listen with the bass tracks muted, it would feel as if the record were completely hollow. All three have grown as musicians, and it is instantly recognizable and extremely satisfying to hear the new power they are exerting.
However there is an issue with You Will Never Be One Of Us and that is, to put it simply, the already popular and acclaimed Nails have now made everyone aware that there is more still to be demanded of them. While still great records in their own right, Unsilent Death and Abandon All Life simply pale in comparison, and it has almost felt wrong attempting to re-listen to either in the past few weeks. The blending of a new, thicker tone that truly pummels the listener, as well as more hook oriented riffs that help to draw their audience in, YWNBOOU has redefined what Nails is, and hopefully what they will continue to be. Not to mention that mosh parts abound, making this a record that will translate to a live setting very easily. Nails has not simply just redefined themselves, but completely destroyed the notion of what they once were, and what they now can be. The only real complaint is that now the next album cannot come soon enough.