Trent Reznor is back, and he brought his wife along
Published: Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 7, 2013 12:03
How to Destroy Angels (stylized as How to destroy angels_ ), a side-project started by Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor, officially released its first album, “Welcome oblivion,” on Wednesday, March 5. Alongside wife and singer Mariqueen Maandig and longtime-collaborator Atticus Ross, Reznor pulls out all of the experimental stops for a masterful post-industrial electronic record, proving that his 2009-2012 hiatus from NIN was time well spent.
There’s no easy way to describe what a genre like “post-industrial electronic noise” sounds like, but perhaps the best way would be to take Daft Punk’s “Tron” soundtrack and throw it into a blender with a fistful of dirt and gravel. “Welcome oblivion” is a collection of sounds so electric and distorted – and of course experimental – that one can’t help think of “The Matrix” or “Terminator” series. Dubstep, industrial rock and electronic music come close to the sound of How to Destroy Angels, but the best segue would of course be Reznor’s previous work.
“The wake-up” is a fittingly titled opening track that ensures the listener make no mistakes that “Welcome oblivion” is not a Nine Inch Nails album. This being said, Reznor’s influence is glaringly apparent just seconds into the album. “Keep it together” features a weaving of Reznor and Maandig’s voices, yet in a way far-removed from other modern duet vocals like Of Monsters and Men and the xx.
Sampling is used to construct several of the beats throughout the album, notably in “And the sky began to scream.” What appears to be classic horror movie music is coupled with eerie vocals from Maandig and Marilyn Manson-esque singing on the part of Reznor. Some familiar NIN tracks also seem to be sampled: the low-fi duet “On the wing” is backed by beats not unlike those of NIN’s 2010 album “The Slip.”
All of the experimentation aside, this is still very much an album by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. “We Fade Away” sounds like the pair layered industrial noise over the instrumental subtleties that comprised their soundtrack to “The Social Network.” This track most notably deserves a listen with quality earbuds or headphones to fully appreciate the bass. In the song “Too late, all gone,” Maandig repeats the lyrics, “The more we change, everything stays the same,” reminiscent of NIN’s 2006, “Every Day Is Exactly the Same.” I find it amusing, given Reznor’s marriage to Maandig between the two releases.
From out of the blue comes the single “Ice Age,” which literally sounds like it’s been put there on mistake. The song is an outlier not only because it features a banjo, but because it is the only track with clearly discernable instruments. However, in classic industrial fashion, faint electronic noise can be heard throughout the single. Whether or not this indicates a future direction for the band is uncertain, but “Ice Age” sounds like none of the preceding tracks.
Normally a big supporter of independent recording, Reznor released several versions of the album with Columbia Records rather than his own label – the Null Corporation. The vinyl version, which this reviewer did not have the pleasure of obtaining, contains two additional tracks and a slightly modified song order. The iTunes bonus tracks are well-worth the money, but it should be noted that the six are actually just the band’s first self-titled EP.