More often than not, an album doesn’t have to be long to be good. Every hardcore thrasher remembers the first time they dropped the needle on something like Slayer‘s Reign in Blood and were utterly demolished within the span of less than half an hour, their music tastes having been permanently warped to a monstrously heavy degree. They pressed [PLAY] as boys, and emerged as men. I myself remember when a friend of mine asked me for music recommendations to get him up at five in the morning for his summer job, and to this day he will testify that “Angel of Death” is more effective than any amount of caffeine. The debut LP from California grindmonsters Nails, Unsilent Death, sets a similar precedent for levels of swift and merciless faceripping in modern heavy music while still being less than fourteen minutes long – perhaps a new record in album duration for a grindcore full-length! These guys are part of Southern Lord’s new patron genre of what people are calling “Entombedcore,” where the catchy and groovy riffs and buzzsaw guitar tone of early Entombed are merged with an over-aggressive throat-grabbing hardcore/grind sensibility to create something new and fierce. And every single one of these albums is produced by Kurt Ballou of Converge, something I’m not complaining about in the least because that man is a god damned wizard. Seriously, man. Just listen to the production on this release (and every other one he’s done, for that matter); it’s punchy and savage in the most delicious of ways. While most other bands in this new upstart genre focus a bit more on catchy passages with shoutable choruses, Nails focus more on creating a discordant blast of d-beat infused deathgrind preserving all the bleakness of Discharge’s legendary Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing with all the unbridled savagery of modern grindcore and extreme metal.
The majority of the album is dominated by grindy cuts like the initial one-two punch of “Conform/Scum Will Rise,” which feel like getting caught in a wind tunnel after snorting a couple lines of gunpowder. The tracks pass by in a blizzard of grindcore rage, never feeling too long or too short, but preserving just enough raw power and fury to get their point across perfectly. With the title track and the closer “Depths,” however, Nails prove also that they can easily write songs with catchy riffs and an almost traditional song structure as well. Not only do these songs provide an essential function in dictating the album’s pacing, but they’re also some of the best thrashers in recent memory. The lyrics of the album focus on typical hardcore themes of conformity, duplicity, defiance of authority, etc. – they don’t break any ground, but they’re absolutely exhilarating to scream along to. A good example of this is the devastating “I Will Not Follow,” where Todd Jones delivers the raw-throated brutally simple chorus line of “Pray for silence/Pray for the end.” And that breakdown, daaamn – “Fuck the sheep who tell me how to live/I wasn’t born to follow or swallow anybody’s shit.” I honestly can’t remember the last time such a short album left me so fucking exhausted. There’s nothing that’s necessarily new or groundbreaking on this release, no style that you won’t have heard before from hardcore/deathgrind paragons like Converge, Trap Them, or Pig Destroyer. But what Unsilent Death lacks in originality, it makes up for in raw ferocity. With rapid-fire tightness, unrelenting sonic savagery, catchy riffs in between the chaos, and breakdowns far more brutal than the generic chuggachuggachug that’s plagued modern metalcore for far too long, this album is an absolute must for any fan of the d-beat.