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. There has been no dissolution of the label’s worth, and in all actuality, Southern Lord has continued to thrive off the back of recent records by Black Breath, Martyrdöd, All Pigs Must Die, Wartorn, Kromosom and Baptists. However, as great as those bands have proven to be, one band stands out as the grinding gem of this reputable label’s roster—Nails.
The pure hatred that exudes from Nails’ music hit the mark with the grindcore, crust and hardcore lovin’ public when their full-length debut Unsilent Death—initially released by Six Feet Under and picked up by Southern Lord—set them apart from the pack back in 2010. Abandon All Life, their latest LP, comes hot on the heels of Obscene Humanity—a 7” of re-recorded older tracks released at the beginning of the year—and cements the esteemed position this Californian group now hold. Abandon All Life, is a likely full-length follow up to Unsilent Death, as Nails keep this record as tightly packed and to the point as its vicious predecessor (it runs three minutes more yet remains under 20 minutes). Kurt Ballou, who seems to produce everything these days, returns to balance the rawness of Nails’ live show with his trademark sonic clarity to add muscle to each song.
The stop-on-a-dime, blast ‘n’ d-beat barrage begins with “In Exodus”; a track that uses feedback as a terrifying weapon. And continues through to “God’s Cold Hands” and “Pariah”; the skin-lashing shards of riffs, wired drum-work and unhinged vocals reaching Converge levels of intensity. The grind-pairing of “Absolute Control” and “Cry Wolf” last about as long as it would take to throw a Molotov cocktail and watch it explode—and prove to be just as devastating. “Tyrant” supplies further grindcore to Abandon All Life, with the added punishment of a deathly groove that leaves you wanting more. And that’s exactly the appeal of this record, but also its most frustrating attribute. Throughout, Nails hit upon these powerful sections—further examples being the brief Pantera-esque groove that ends “No Surrender” and the caustic pick scraping riffs that drip claret across the title track—only to stop without warning and deny the listener the desired pay-off.
Granted, this does warrant immediate replays and is indicative of the callous nature of Nails’ music and the band’s nihilistic outlook, but these songs would be truly overwhelming if Nails explored these sections further. Such criticism is slight, and cannot be leveled at “Wide Open Wound” and “Suum Cuique”, as Nails’ command over tempo changes and dynamics are extreme. “Suum Cuique”, in particular, is fully realized. The death and doom metal malevolence this song imparts merits its position at the record’s end.
Like Dragged Into Sunlight last year, Nails’ disgust for the human race on Abandon All Life is evident in every wretched note and poisonous vocal. The band doesn’t care what you think about their music, and such revulsion is a necessary ingredient in creating lasting extreme metal. By taking the brutal traits of numerous metal sub-genres, Nails have created a violent record that leaves you begging for a reprise, only to press play and relive the assault all over again. And like any form of assault, the scars are worn on the inside long after the physical damage fades.