As fans of heavy music, most of us have at some point had to preface mentioning a band with “I don’t know if you’re into this sort of thing, but…” This is a fact of life when discussing virtually any heavy or extreme music, but perhaps never more so than when discussing Nails. The American hardcore band has carved a niche for themselves by being as far from easy listening as one can possibly get, and their knack for unbridled misanthropy has reached new heights with the creation of Abandon All Life, their latest full-length.
Following up the aural assault that was Unsilent Death – Nails’ 15-minute maelstrom of an album from 2010 – Abandon All Life has expanded upon that formula to create a more evolved version of their unique brand of brash, noisy hardcore. While Unsilent Death only featured a single track longer than two minutes, Abandon All Life contains several lengthier tracks, and they use that extra length to create some truly impressive soundscapes.
Rarely does one find a band that can so effortlessly toggle between chaotic walls of blast-beat-supported noise and vast, rich sections of slow, sludgy guitar riffs. If you think Converge has the art of creating instantaneous chaos down to a science, you’ll be blown away by how deftly Nails manages a similar feat. Again, the nature of this dichotomy, and the narratives it allows Nails to construct within their songs, is greatly aided by their new-found penchant for longer tracks. Some may see this as straying from their grindcore-infused roots, but there’s no denying it helps them flesh out their structure and atmosphere in a big way.
Over the course of its ten tracks, Abandon All Life provides a roller coaster ride of dynamics and energy. From the relentless force of songs like “No Surrender” and the album’s title track, to the dark, ominous breakdowns on tracks like “God’s Cold Hands,” there’s very little about this album that will be predictable to most listeners. On the other hand, it’s not an album that makes too many attempts to hide its influences; this is unmistakably the product of the last couple decades of hardcore, grindcore and powerviolence, and it bears the marks of its forebears with pride.
At the end of the day, there’s very few reasons to miss out on this album if you’re a fan of the darker, heavier, dirtier side of modern hardcore. It wouldn’t be a stretch to accuse Nails of being deliberately obtuse at times, and there’s certainly some signs of this being an album that is inaccessible because its creators like it that way, but such intentions may well have aided in creating the unique beast that is Abandon All Life. Past the veneer of chaos and crushing heaviness that this album presents, there’s a whole lot of interesting stuff going on under the surface. Give it at least a couple listens before you dismiss it.