Todd Jones is a serious individual. Stage presence is a big part of what makes or breaks any band, but especially in the world of hardcore, death metal, grindcore, powerviolence or however else one would choose to classify the music of Jones’ beloved extreme metal outfit Nails. I’m a huge fan of props, costumes and the like, your Ghosts, your Ghouls, your Gwars, but it’s even better when a performer can get that same awed hush out of a packed room by just standing there in his street clothes and looking out over the crowd. Jones, well, “nails” it, in a way that I’ve seen only from titans like Danzig or Phil Anselmo, and when the man introduces his band and tells you to slam, the eruption of the entire floor into a tornado of bodies is the least we can do to show our admiration and approval.
Transportation woes and a weird ticketing snafu at Underground Arts saw me miss out on the two local openers at Thursday night’s show, but if the merch on the backs of several crowd members was any indication, Justified Defiance and Malice At The Palace were well received indeed. When I arrived Eternal Sleep was already ripping into a no-nonsense set of thrashy hardcore that had the floor opened up with a ton of enthusiastic movement. God’s Hate followed with a sludgier, more groove inflected take on the old school HC business at hand and also received a joyous reception from an incredibly game audience that had a great attitude all night, no tough guy bullshit here, there was chaos and contact of course, but it was all fun and friendly and made a great show even better. Last up before the main event was Full Of Hell, with almost too masochistic a sound to take in all at once. Imagine schizophrenic high/low vocals a ’la The Black Dahlia Murder’s Trevor Strnad over a Converge-esqe post hardcore cacophony, all while the singer noodled around on a synthesizer just to add an extra layer of dissonant insanity. I’ll be looking forward to hearing more from these guys.
Exploding into “Abandon All Life” standout “God’s Cold Hands” after a refreshingly short change over, Nails gave the crowd exactly what they showed up for, the entire floor becoming a swirling torrent of revelers, barely given a chance to breathe before being battered once more by the title track to the band’s amazing new record “You Will Never Be One Of Us”. Old and new songs alternated throughout the band’s performance, showing just how seamlessly they’ve progressed since their 2009 debut, but nearly all of the new record made its way into the set, always refreshing to see a band’s confidence in and satisfaction with their newest material, especially when it’s as genre redefining a masterpiece as YWNBOOU.
Jones addressed the crowd, claiming Philly as the band’s second home, and it’s not just hyperbolic bullshit, not from theae guys. Nails were just here at Choosing Death Fest in April and they’ll be at This is Hardcore Fest next month. Jones was clearly satisfied with the reaction the band got from the basement dwellers at UA on Thursday so it’s no wonder we keep him coming back. Late in the set the band launched into “They Come Crawling Back”, the epic eight minute closing track from the new record. That would be all most acts would have in them but not Nails, who then spiraled into a scathing rendition of the title track from their first record “Unsilent Death”, basist John Gianelli’s raw delivery of the chorus as ferocious as the crowd was grateful for one last chance to pummel each other before the night was through.