There’s a lot of hype building up to You Will Never Be One of Us, the third full-length by Southern Californian powerviolence trio Nails. Known for being unrelenting in their seething anger, both 2010’s Unsilent Death and 2013’s cataclysmic Abandon All Life garnered the trio an army of loyal followers, and rightfully so. There’s no fluff, no compromise, and no bullshit when it comes to their militaristic approach. With the dawn of their newest album almost upon us, several magazines and websites are already heaping praises upon it as if it was the greatest thing since sliced bread, automatic transmission, and the Internet. With such a crippling barrage of expectations, can You Will Never Be One of Us hold up to its powerviolent heritage?
You would be wrong to think otherwise once the opening title track begins. With feedback roaring and some of metal and hardcore’s finest lifers, such as members of Neurosis, Baroness, and Converge, all saying that we will never be one of them, the song kicks into overdrive, immediately ripping your head off and sending it flying a few city blocks away. Guitarist Todd Jones has done away with his howling rasp, and has now adopted a lower, meaner growl, sounding infinitely more pissed off (just how?!) than he did on Abandon. The riffing between Jones and bassist John Gianelli is tight enough to be deadly yet loose enough to still classify this as somewhat human, and I’m surprised no one’s called the cops on Taylor Young’s slaughtering of his drumkit, as he seems to be hitting harder than before. For a 90-second anthem calling out the posers of metal and hardcore, it’s short, brutal, and effective. It’s hard to not see You Will Never Be One of Us as anything other than flawless, violent perfection just from this track alone.
But there are other songs on here, and that’s where things get a bit hairy, and I don’t mean in the masculine sense, either. When making the album, Young quoted that he would listen to a metal band’s 11-minute song for that one hard-ass riff, and that Nails concentrated on an album full of just hard-ass riffs. This would be both the album’s benefit and downfall, as the reason for those heavy riffs being so crushing is this little thing called a build-up, and Abandon had them in spades, but they’re sorely lacking here. Songs become interchangeable with few exceptions, such as the beginning of the 8-minute elephant-in-the-room closer, “They Come Crawling Back,” or the sudden abrupt stop in “Savage Intolerance” that leads to the mother of all breakdowns. But other than those moments, there’s a severe feeling of one track sounding too much like another due to a lack of build-up and climax.
Kurt Ballou’s (Converge) God City production sounds ridiculously thick and dirty here, conjuring up images of broken HM-2 pedals thrown about, and Jones detuning his guitar to Drop Z. Gianelli’s bass cuts through the tar-thick wall of guitar noise just enough to show he’s there, and Young’s recorded drum-slaughter is both powerful and dynamic-free, as those cymbals just sound like static from being so overdriven. Then again, powerviolence doesn’t exactly beg for dynamics or breathing space. What does need to happen is more build-up within songs. When everything is a breakdown, nothing really is, and that’s what sets this back for me.
Still, I cannot fault the honesty, sincerity, and the level of sheer unadulterated rage spewed forth from You Will Never Be One of Us. There’s no compromise here, and fans of the band will be more than happy with this release. It’s vicious as all get-out, and perfect for those times when you need to have “your moment.” Just don’t go into it expecting perfection.