Nail Within
Nail Within

The far-reaching influence of At The Gates‘ Slaughter of the Soul has resonated throughout the death metal genre and as recent releases by Dew-Scented and Corporation 187 have shown, the influence remains as powerful as ever. Even the Middle East now has felt the ‘Gates influence seep ever further afield. While Israel has produced a handful of decent acts, they mainly rely on their ethnic culture within their music. Not Nail Within. Not a single Arabic element in sight, as this self-titled debut is a straightforward, face-ripping thrash attack that rivals the source material for intensity, tightness and possibly classic stature.

Formed from the ashes of Israeli acts Betrayer and Azazel, Nail Within was built to mimic the perfection of At The Gates. How big is ATG as an influence? Well, Tomas Lindberg felt them worthy enough to appear as a guest vocalist – that’s how big. This album simply fucking shreds without mercy; ultra-tight dual guitar riffing, jackhammer percussion, scathing vocals, and a hint of melody, all bound in a polished, non stop assault on your ears. Throw in a production from legendary thrash metal producer Harris Johns (Kreator, Sodom, Protector, Celtic Frost), and you’ve got the kind of album that people will talk about in 10 years.

Granted it starts a little average, as the first two songs initially did little to get me too excited, but considering my general disinterest in thrash metal, it’s understandable. “Emblazoned” and “Inhuman Conditions” may be the album’s two weaker cuts as in light of the greatness of the other nine songs; they simply don’t measure up on the Richter scale. Straight-forward, tight, savage, slightly death metal tinged thrash executed perfectly, but nothing compared to what follows. The album then takes a huge leap forward with the album’s first of nine utterly killer cuts; “Dirty Colored Knife” (incidentally the CD features a typically bizarre low budget video of this song). This song basically sounds like a lost tune from the Slaughter of the Soul recording sessions, and includes Lindberg’s first of a few vocal appearances, it rips away with some utterly magnificent riffs and superb time changes. It should be noted Mille from Kreator and Ze’ev from Salem appear on vocals too, making this a song for the ages. From there it just goes on auto mode as brilliant riff after brilliant riff is thrown from the speakers like a swarm of hornets being siphoned into your ears. My necks hurt after listening to this album.

“Bleed Forever” continues the sonic greatness, but lacks the vocal clout despite an appearance from Roberto Gonele of German antiquated thrashers Assassin. A short acoustic intro opens up “Under the Spell” which defines tightness, as the dual guitars dance a vicious waltz that waylays everything for a 20 kilometer radius. All the while every riff keeps a pitbull-like grip on your memory, as each note clings on to your now frayed brain stem, you’ll be humming these riffs for days I tell you. Then just when you think the album is due for the mid-point let down, Nail Within answers with the album’s second best song “Elastic”. This cut (such a fitting word) features probably the most obvious ATG influences, with some killer but misleading guitar play that threw me for a musical loop, but also warranted several replays. This tune also features a rare solo that gives you a tiny breather between sonic bitch slaps. By god, it doesn’t let up as the super short burst of “Mental Coffin” displays some ingeniously crafted stop-start riffing and superb guitar proficiency.

A slightly more death metal approach surfaces for “My Wallow”, but it has a “chorus” riff if you will that is devastating, a surprisingly controlled mid-paced section in the middle and a classical solo at the end. This all shows Nail Within can throw musical curveballs at will in between the carefully orchestrated carnage. As if to hammer the nail home that they are more capable of control, ‘King Obscenity” plods along compared to the rest of the album. However, despite Nail Within wanting to show their softer side, they deliver a short, savage killing blow for “Impure”. Its main riff has a deadly buzz-saw flourish that left my jaw agape. Fucking unbelievable.

The closing track “Last Nail” is a sobering mid-paced attempt at death metal’s haunting melodies; it’s a fine song but when following up a blazing affair like “Impure” it ends the album with a pop, not a bang. If I had to nitpick it would be vocalist Yishai is pretty non-descript, although serviceable, and the reliance on guest vocals, but that’s petty on such a phenomenal album. There’s not much more to say – a perfect album that’s perfectly produced and played with an intensity and talent I’ve yet to see from Israel, even from the country’s stalwarts Salem (whose drummer Nir Nakav filled in for this album). This is one of those rare debuts that blasts onto the scene and leaves a lasting impression in metal. The question is how Nail Within can possibly follow this instant classic.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
November 21st, 2003

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