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Nails’ Abandon All Life: Taking Their Chances with Raw Energy

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Metal sounds best, in my opinion, when the musicians sound angry. There is a tone, hard to describe but easily heard, that a band takes on when they are truly pissed off. It’s why many extreme metal bands’ later music pales in comparison to their former output—it’s just harder to stay that angry when you’re in your forties. In that respect, California’s own Nails have made a fantastic album with Abandon All Life. From start to finish, this ten-track facefuck has oodles of genuine ire at its core, channeling old-school hardcore via the Stockholm Sound with a sizeable injection of venomous hatred.

Opener “In Exodus” wastes no time with lengthy lead-ins or guitar harmonies, blasting into the album’s brand of chuggy, grimy blackened hardcore. The album continues on in that poisoned vein, occasionally broken up by bouts of moody atmospherics; the slower pace and varied musical themes present in “God’s Cold Hands” and “Wide Open Wounds” are melancholy in their rage. Meanwhile, songs like “Cry Wolf” and the title track channel the breakneck speed and no-frills over-before-you-know-it dark punk that is obviously so much of what Nails do. Closer “Suum Cuique” is a smoldering occult-laced slasher, its gravel-voiced spoken word exit adding a new layer to the album as a whole.

Sadly, what works for Nails also works against them at times. Abandon All Life is a swift blow to the face, and gets its point across very quickly, but those variations made in the songs and sound aren’t quite enough to keep the listener from tuning out at times. Occasionally, one can’t help but wonder if the band just needs a couple more chords in their repertoire; the album possesses all the stripped-down force of punk, but at times loses the technical catchiness of extreme metal. Where an album of more varied sound would be hard to turn off, Abandon… feels like it could occasionally be talked over.

Nails are easy contemporaries of bands like Black Breath and All Pigs Must Die, and indeed possess all of the anger and power those blackened hardcore outfits possess. Abandon All Life is straight-forward, powerful, and genuinely angry. However, the band’s potential is just short of fully realized, and could be helped by some oddities and emotional variation. Nails have all the raw material so many bands lack, but could use the tools with which to shape it.

Nails’ Abandon All Life is out now on Southern Lord. You can stream the entire album here and purchase it here.

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