Review: “Nails” by Willem Dafrend

When we started writing the record, I had just watched Road to Perdition, and the first few songs were loosely themed on the Tom Hanks character. No nonsense gangster who gets betrayed by his partner and ends up killing him. The second half of the record follows that same guy into retired suburban hell. The last song has him sitting in a bar wondering if alcohol can bring him answers to all the questions he has about his life. Conceptually Nails follows a character’s evolution from a visceral, bloodied street thug dealing with betrayal to fatherhood and the unjustified and inexplicable rage that sometimes comes with raising children, ending with depression and reflection on bygone exploits.” ~ Craig Niemoeller, vocals

An emerging Metalcore outfit hailing from Saint Louis, Missouri, Willem Dafrend arrived on the scene last year with a pair of singles in “Local Legend” and “Fish Piss” and while they maybe a new name, they aren’t a fresh face, the band comprising a collection of seasoned musicians who have been around the block and then some over the past two decades. Returning with their debut full length album “Nails“, recorded at The Black Lodge in Fenton and engineered, mixed and mastered by guitarist Patrick Baum (ex-Adair), the band set about refining their sound. He is joined by vocalist Craig Niemoeller, bassist Robert Fancher and drummer Joseph Baalmaan for something of a concept record…

Nails” screams into life with “I Am F***ing Harcore” as Niemoeller evokes memories of early Every Time I Die, American Standards and even Glassjaw¬†with a vocal performance perfectly fitting for the material that those bands released in the circa 2005 onwards. The influences quite literally bleed through the bandages as the riffs grab the attention, the only question on the razor sharp opening cut being if the band require a second guitarist to round out their sound. Pardon the pun but “Keep The Ink Wet” drives home the nails of the opening cut with staccato riff breaks and feedback masking some curious Post-Hardcore melodies blended with Hardcore, Hardcore Punk and Metalcore vibes as things play out fast and loose. The downtempo slowdown on this one is the Chef’s Kiss, the accompanying screams making it an adrenaline rush from start to finish. “Finish the Job” then picks up the baton, another short fast affair that brings the fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously despite the caustic vocals and punchy percussion. The mix has been nailed so that it’s raw enough to have a live feel to it but polished enough to keep it on balanced. Offering something a little different, “Fruit For The Flies” begins like it has arisen from slumber to the gift of a hot cup of coffee from a hot coffee cup, coming to life over the first minute before raising the game with a powerful chorus that lyrically brings back memories of bands like Alice In Chains but vocally has a lot more grit and gravel to it.

The Southern Metal riffs of “King Of The Cul-De-Sac” sound like they belong to a demo from “The Big Dirty” by Every Time I Die, such is the quality of this ripper of a little ditty. No need for a solo because the rhythms are as eclectic and eccentric as some of the lyrics which keep you on your toes throughout and will keep you coming back for more. The bassline of “Lego Lake” is bombastic, Fancher injecting that bit of je ne sais quoi that gives the sound some extra funk to it. Who else would put a line in a song that says “lets go to Target and buy some more s***“? It’s just hilarious in an addictive kind of way. It’s impossible not to head bang to these cuts on the first listen to the album, they’re infectious while carrying an air of familiarity that makes they undeniable. The punch of “Chainsaw” is an instant pit starter with the edge of early Cancer Bats material, a 124 second tension filled affair that has all the atmospherics you could want and while it maybe relatively straightforward, it’s a classic example of how things don’t have to be complex to be work well. Raw and visceral, “Can’t Find The End” finished the album on more of a personal note lyrically while keeping the style and grace of the earlier cuts firmly in place with no place for a ballad. As sharp as the rest of the tools in the butchers set, it rounds off the album nicely as the product of its genes, influences and experiences [7.5/10]

Track Listing

  1. I Am F***ing Hardcore
  2. Keep The Ink Wet
  3. Finish The Job
  4. Fruit For The Flies
  5. King Of The Cul-De-Sac
  6. Lego Lake
  7. Chainsaw
  8. Can’t Find The End

Nails” by Willem Dafrend is out 23rd December 2022

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