Trent Reznor has some pretty intense fans. I remember Nine Inch Nails being my favorite artist in middle school, and I remember an afternoon in high school, when my NIN shirt got the attention of one very unique fellow on the Orange Line. He proceeded to explain that Trent Reznor was producing much better music while he was doing heroin.
In retrospect, that was kind of weird.
Trent’s newest outfit, How to Destroy Angels, has bred both ire and terrible puns from these sorts of hardcore Nine Inch Nails fans. I gave the group’s self-titled 2010 EP a try, but decided it wasn’t for me. It had more of an industrial tinge, though that’s still present here. Welcome Oblivion, supposedly, is more similar to 2012’s An omen_ EP, which I skipped.
But on Welcome Oblivion, you get the feeling right from the jump that there’s a more accessible release here, and you’d be right. A lot of the songs on the album are basically straight-up glitch pop. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (his Social Network collaborator) create minimalist, twitchy rhythms, and allow Reznor’s wife Mariqueen Mandig to use her vocals over them. Kind of. For the most part, she’s more of a part of the sounds being created, as opposed to the forefront, and it works better that way. When her vocals are center stage, it doesn’t work out the majority of the time. She has a pretty voice, but there’s nothing particularly special about it, and she’s more effective as just another instrument. A notable exception to this would be “Ice Age”, which is likely my favorite track. It stands out starkly from the rest of the album, but it flows well, just like all of Welcome Oblivion. We get an extremely sparse beat coupled only with Mandig’s vocals, and it’s mesmerizing.
But even though these are pop tracks, they don’t really crescendo very often. A notable exception to this is lead single “How Long?”, which is also an exception in that it doesn’t flow with the album at all. As a standalone track though, I like it. Trent may need a bit more practice with this type of music, as it could be really powerful if it didn’t meander so much. The latter half of the album is pure throwaway material, in that it does a whole lot of rambling, but is almost entirely instrumental. It kind of just drones on and on, and you sit waiting for the tracks to end.
But overall I see some potential here if Trent sticks with this. It doesn’t seem like he will, as he’s just announced an end to Nine Inch Nails’ hiatus. And that’s fine, the man can only work so much. But I’m satisfied with the listens I’ve given this album.