Review Summary: What Morbid Angel means when they say "Extreme Music for Extreme People"
Napalm Death arguably brought about the end of the race for “harder and faster” with their grindcore-establishing debut album Scum in 1987, and since then metal has expanded into more abstract, experimental territories and dabbled in much slower tempos with the rise of stoner and doom metal. But metalheads weren’t about to move past something as revolutionary as Scum so passively. Even in a world where metal was no longer about who could be the hardest and the fastest, countless grindcore bands sprung up all over the globe emulating the sound of Napalm Death, Terrorizer and others who pushed speed and intensity to their respective limits. Even now in an era of “post-this” and “atmospheric-that”, grind bands thrive in the modern metal and hardcore scene, and many have given in to experimentation to keep the genre fresh (see Genghis Tron.) while others ignore progressive tendencies and make attempts to trump Napalm as, once again, the hardest and the fastest. One band that seems to be doing this unapologetically is Nails, and with Abandon All Life they have proven to be well on their way to achieving that level of visceral extremity.
Experimentation and cross-pollinating with other genres (minus a little sludge metal influence) is not on Nails’ list of priorities when it comes to crafting an album. If this album is any indication, Nails seems to be exclusively concerned with viciously tearing away the faces and crushing the gonads of any poor sap who dares listens to their music. Abandon All life is a borderline absurd exaggeration of the most extreme elements of metal and hardcore, and the results can be a tad overwhelming, but rewarding after a few listens (Go ahead, listen to it twice in a row. The album isn’t even 20 minutes long.) The level of distortion on the guitars is one of many over-exaggerations apparent on this record. This buzzsaw tone must have been conjured up by taking an extremely overdriven amp and then stomping on a distortion pedal for maximum gain saturation, resulting in a tone worthy of the Horned One Himself. The band’s drummer will erupt into double-kicks and blast beats even at the slightest provocation, and the off-kilter maniac screaming is one of the angriest vocal deliveries you’ll hear in hardcore and grind today. Amidst all the smashing and bashing, the band employs a few little details to keep listener’s heads banging. The drumming, whether it be pounding double bass or frantic blast beasts, always perfectly underlies the riffs being churned out on top of it, and when the vocalist’s low growls are layered over high pitched screams, the results are as tasty as a king-sized cinnamon roll slathered in cream cheese icing. The band even goes half-time into some tastefully done (and totally crushing) breakdowns to break up the speed. With the songs being so short (most are under two minutes long) it is assured that all the fat is trimmed away, and we’re left with nothing but extreme metal boiled down to its bones and sinew bathing in a broth so hot it could melt metal itself.
Nails is a band that sounds determined to refrain from any silly gimmicks, and Abandon All Life should be a prescription for any extreme music fan who’s bored with the scene today. It’s an adrenaline and testosterone fueled onslaught of metallic urgency that affirms life in the aging grindcore genre. While not forward-thinking by any means, this album thrives on its own reserve of intensity and sheer power, and it will be one hell of a long time before it ever runs out.