Confronting that part of yourself that leads to artistic expression is something of a frightening experience as it makes you question your very ability and precisely what drives you to create, which inevitably brings you back to the original intention of facing the person you are, holistically and atomistically. This introspection ties into the recent EP trilogy by Nine Inch Nails (NIN) as the band looks inward for an answer.
Nine Inch Nails has reached the conclusion of the EP trilogy with ˜Bad Witch' – released 22 June 2018, through The Null Corporation and Capitol Records. ˜Bad Witch' continues the exploration of sound and sentiment that Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross started with ˜Not the Actual Events' in 2016.
Reznor described the EP trilogy as an interpretation of a world view and revolves around the question, which can be explained in each EP:
1. Aging while the world grows more surreal and responding to that with anger and self-destruction.
2. Looking for answers externally and exploring each approach.
3. One final look at the question whilst rejecting what the 2nd EP found, and pursuing your own truth.
Read that how you will, but for now let's explore the tracks.
The first track, Shit Mirror starts the EP with a noisy, industrial guitar riff that is easily the heavy signature sound of Nine Inch Nails with lyrics that barely contain their animosity. The track stops abruptly at the half way mark but then picks up with barely discernible backing vocals from Ian Astbury (The Cult) and Mariqueen Maandig (How to Destroy Angels). The track ends ever so subtly on a note that feeds into track two.
Ahead of Ourselves runs with heavy synth distortions and a drum & bass line that carries throughout the rest of the EP, however you get treated to occasional bursts of screechy guitar riff before the buzzy end.
The third track, Play the Goddamned Part is the jazzy, mute older brother of Perfect Drug but with saxophones, dense atmosphere and a condescending sneer.
The fourth track, God Break Down the Door sounds like something left on the cutting floor of David Bowie's Blackstar album, or more specifically a Reznor tribute to one of his heroes. The vocal performance is on par and the electro-jazz is a nice touch.
Ever taken a late-night drive through the quiet dark with no light except those of your car's headlights and nothing to accompany you besides the sound of everything around you, then you have a fairly close idea of what kind of beast I'm Not From This World is. The creeping instrumentation is the exploration of a dark ambient landscape, the idling engine of ingenuity that Reznor keeps humming in the background whenever he tackles the task of creation — low, vibrating and menacing.
The final track (Over and Out) has a croon that would make Bowie proud but ends with the final note blowing into the whisperless wind of a spooky landscape leading into the electronic abyss.
One thing you can't fault Reznor on is the quality of his production, and with the addition of Ross' tidy programming to the mix they can only create a sleak soundscape. But as always, there are cracks.
˜Bad Witch' doesn't take itself seriously enough to go ahead and fully embrace what it is experimenting with. It crowns off a trilogy of EPs that are basically a sprint through the Nine Inch Nails discography and leaves bread crumbs for you to pick and choose what you think it each track sounds like.
Reznor understands the music industry and knows how to tweak it, hence the decision to produce and market ˜Bad Witch' as an album and not an EP – the former means greater exposure and numbers, whereas the latter would fall into the bargain bin of niche music hell. Not to be facetious, but this is just an EP with 5 minutes of extra meat (clocking in at thirty minutes and fourteen seconds).
Nine Inch Nails' legacy is secure, but these EPs offer nothing more than nourishment for fans that are starved for output from the eminent band. You might find a morsel to provide some sort of answer but ultimately you will still need to find the Truth in it all. Somewhere.
˜Bad Witch' track listing:
1. Shit Mirror
2. Ahead of Ourselves
3. Play the Goddamned Part (instrumental)
4. God Break Down the Door
5. I'm Not From This World (instrumental)
6. Over and Out
Nine Inch Nails are:
Trent Reznor — arrangements, performance, production, programming
Atticus Ross — arrangements, performance, production, programming
Alan Moulder — mixing
Tom Baker — mastering
Chris Richardson — engineering
Justin McGrath — engineering
Ian Astbury — additional vocals (track 1)
Mariqueen Maandig Reznor — additional vocals (track 1)
Nine Inch Nails online: