I recently took a break from pirating CD’s (that’s the fancy term I came up with for my method of renting music from the library then ripping it to my computer for my own personal use; therefore not breaking any copyright laws) to download the first full-length album from Trent Reznor’s new project How to Destroy Angels. While I’ve always been a huge fan of Nine Inch Nails (They were my first hard rock concert back in 2001) I’m not so sad about the withdrawal from the scene of an old favorite as I am excited to be hearing fresh new music from a great new band.
It’s extremely hard to say this about a band featuring the man that guided the early career of goth-rock icon Marilyn Manson and whose (arguably) finest achievement is the 1994 ode to self destruction and depression “The Downward Spiral,” but “Welcome Oblivion” is a finely crafted and extremely upbeat pop album. While I miss NIN, I can’t help but feel that this album is the best to come from Reznor since 2005’s “With Teeth.” Sure, HTDA lacks the muscular aggression and singleness of purpose of NIN, but I can’t help but feel that that formula was beginning to become somewhat stale on later albums like “Year Zero” and “The Slip”
The album also puts back into play a well-worn tactic NIN used to create hype about their early albums: anticipation. After putting out as many albums in their last three years as they did in the first fifteen it’s easy to forget how used to waiting for the next album we got. While there were two HTDA EP’s and the great track “Is Your Love Strong Enough” on “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” soundtrack, people like me have been waiting for a full-length album from these guys for a few years. It’s great to finally have one.
The NIN albums that “Welcome Oblivion” most recalls is “Ghosts I-IV.” The record uses a nearly identical approach to instrumentation, albeit with Mariqueen Maandig’s sultry vocals. The blips, bloops and odd sounding drum machines interweave and create beautiful pop-rock melodies that rival the best output of any musician working today. While it’s difficult for me to not be able to differentiate what Reznor, Atticus Ross or Rob Sheridan are doing, they prove that they work greatly as a team and focus solely on coming up with great music.
“The Wake Up” is a great opener that leads right to the first single “Keep it Together.” I’m not quite sure why this tune was picked to be the first single as other tune’s like “Ice Age” or “How Long” contain spicier rhythms and catchier vocals, but then again there are several reasons why I’m not the person making these decisions (some of which can be found HERE). I’m sure given time other songs will emerge as fan favorites and fight their way into the public consciousness. “On the Wing” is a mellower track that for some odd reasons reminds me of Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now”
While a part of me is still mourning the demise of the Trent Reznor who gave tunes like “Terrible Lie” and “Reptile” I’m excited to hear what this new Reznor will offer us in the future. Sure, I’ll miss hearing the angsty, macho heavy metal of NIN but I realize that it’s better to be pushing boundaries and trying new things and new approaches to making music than to spend hours and energy trying to recapture feelings and energies from 20 years ago. While there are things I like about the safe, predicatable music of NIN it’s the risk taking of starting a band like How to Destroy Angels that really excites me.
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