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.
Southern Lord’s crust/punk/hardcore nepotism has reached saturation point, to the extent that, over the last number of years, this label has signed band after band and released record after record around this uncompromising sound. In general circumstances, this oversaturation would amount to the label’s death knell. But the crux of this rests upon the fact that the records Southern Lord have released have been of the highest quality.
Review Summary: Don your Entombed patch laden denim jacket and get pissed.Abandon All Life is an exercise in immediacy. Nothing is veiled during the album’s 17 minute runtime as the band begins with a beguiling and thunderous wall of oppressive heaviness that does not relent until the final moments. Each track is gravid with a sense of dread and repulsive anger, spread over 10 cathartic bouts of intensity.
In the 17 or so minutes it takes to listen to Abandon All Life, Nails do everything in their power to absolutely savage the listener, launching a musical assault so intensely volatile that one must either submit to its fury or be swept aside by it. Filled end to end with grindcore insanity and covered in a sheen of sonic grime (thanks to Converge guitarist and engineer extraordinaire Kurt Ballou), the album is an exercise in relentlessness, offering no quarter and asking for none in return as it stampedes from track to track on a merciless metal rampage. If Abandon All Life was a longer album, listening to it might be an exercise in aural masochism, but with its compact running time, it instead feels like a whirlwind trip through some kind of nightmare landscape that lasts just long enough to feel its effects, but ends before any sort of lasting physical or psychological effects set in.
No one ever said that Nails were easy listening. But while the band seem to strive to sound as mean and nasty as possible, they've always kept the hook alive in their music. Perhaps that's why they draw heavily from both hardcore punk and death metal. On one side they utilize a full throttle, ripping energy attack.
Just so that you know what kind of thing you’re dealing with here: if this review was to echo the record it’s reviewing then it would be a) one paragraph long, b) written in ALL CAPS and c) tell you to go fuck yourself at the end. Abandon All Life kicks off with zero foreplay: first track ‘In Exodus’ slams out of the speakers with a rattle of drums, grinding guitars and a screamed battle cry. And we’re off.
Picture the scene from Groundhog Day, when the clock clicks from 5:59 to 6:00, and Sonny and Cher once again welcome Bill Murray into his temporal prison. Now imagine that instead of I Got You Babe, the radio plays a succession of downtuned metal riffs and a man screaming incomprehensible gibberish in his ear. That’s what Abandon All Life is like.
In the race to the furthest extremity of metal, Nails nears the finish line. Abandon All Life pushes its thrashing grindcore so far into the red it paints the walls with blood. A subtle sense of dynamics (cf. "Wide Open Wound") keeps the roar from getting monochromatic, but don't-blink intensity rules here, and Nails hammers it directly into your brain.