Nails Didn’t Die An Unsilent Death
In the short term, going on an ‘indefinite hiatus’ just before the start of an UK tour on the heels of the biggest album of your career, as Nails did on July 25th, is a pretty terrible idea. When the financial margins of error are as slim as they are in heavy music, and when audience’s favors are as fickle as they are on the internet, most bands would kill to have a launching pad like a Decibel cover story and an accompanying 10/10 review for their newest record.
While Nails have been darlings of hardcore hypebeasts and the metal media since their 2010 debut, Unsilent Death, the buzz around You Will Never Be One Of Us, both positive and negative, helped push Nails into household name territory for heavy music fans of all stripes. From there it isn’t hard to imagine them releasing a new album every two years, appearing on package tours with Lamb Of God or Slipknot, and becoming a reliable soundtrack for “all chest no legs” workouts for the next decade or so. But instead, Nails are suddenly gone, and in the long term, that might have been the smartest move they could have made.
A quick caveat. It is easy to associate this bit of Nails news to their troubles with the press after getting into a brief twitter feud with writer Dean Brown, but doing so would be presumptuous. Until Nails themselves announce the reason behind the sudden departure, any speculation as to why they decided to call it quits is just that, speculation. The decision could have been made for any number of personal, financial or creative reasons. As such, anyone claiming to speak for why the band went on hiatus knows just as little as the rest of us, and is likely full of shit.
To be doubly precise, Nails haven’t even been entirely clear on what’s going on in their camp. The word ‘hiatus’ came from the promoter of one of their cancelled shows. All we know for sure is that they won’t be playing the UK as previously announced. Hiatus has an unclear meaning when it comes to bands. For some groups hiatus seems to indicate a noncommittal breakup. For others it means “we’re going to fuck off to the Bahamas for a few weeks.” For all we know Nails will pull a Drake and surprise-drop a new record in a month, but right now, let’s be safe and assume the former, just because this sudden shift has people frothing at the mouth. Barring the possibility of them pulling an LCD Soundsystem and re-emerging in five years, Nails are done, leaving behind three albums and 58 minutes of music.
Those two numbers, three and 58, will matter more to how we remember Nails than any number of goofy memes or meatheaded tweets. Everything about Nails’ music is defined by bluntness. Their songs weren’t just short for the sake of it, their writing style simply would not be able to support longer and more traditional lengths. Adding just 30 seconds to each of their songs would make their albums a slog. By making each track as short as it can stand to be, they maximized the impact of each transition from riff to riff, and subsequently from song to song on an album. Other bands have tried to meld that kind of brevity with melody (see Gridlink, who also quit after three albums) but Nails used it as an excuse to make each song as heavy and aggressive as it could stand to be.
Anytime an artist builds their work on extremity, they run the risk of desensitizing their audience. In that hypothetical career I outlined earlier, how many more Nails do you think you would listen to before getting bored? How many before they start to blend together, before the diminishing returns become very obvious? Hell, I still don’t think they’ve topped Unsilent Death. By keeping their body of work as brief as their average song, they’ve preserved their intensity and bolstered their legacy for the long term.
Nails did not go quietly into the night. They gathered their true believers, kids who will be wearing Nails longsleeves until they become retro-cool, and slammed the door in the face of the folks who didn’t get it.
And if they return, well, their break will be as abrupt a knuckleduster as every single other thing they’ve done.
This article has been amended to more accurately reflect statements or lack thereof from the Nails camp.