For Fans Of
Ok. So he managed to headline the 2009 edition of the Soundwave Festival with his industrial juggernaut Nine Inch Nails, but what has Trent Reznor been up to lately? Well, actually quite a bit…
Reznor may have placed Nine Inch Nails on an indefinite hiatus but that hasn’t stopped him making music- this time teaming up with his wife Mariqueen Maandig Reznor and long-time Nine Inch Nails collaborator Atticus Ross to form How To Destroy Angels. Those with their ears to the ground would have heard the band drop drips and drabs of material over the past month or two; however, their self-titled debut EP is the band’s first official release.
Maybe it’s the fact that he’s now happily married or perhaps it’s because he’s dealt with personal demons that plagued him in the past, either way, Trent Reznor’s music is certainly a lot more passive these days than what it once was. His songwriting on Nine Inch Nail’s later albums including Year Zero and The Slip is tame and radio-friendly compared to the chaos and paranoia evident on The Downward Spiral and The Fragile. Consequently, How To Destroy Angels sees Trent Reznor continuing this trend with ambience and mood taking priority over the anguish and rage of his past.
Despite his paws being all over the musical direction, Trent’s vocals take a noticeable back seat to his wife’s singing on this EP, with the renowned frontman instead twisting the dials and peddle-bashing alongside Atticus Ross in order to get that moody, dark quality that has come to define Nine Inch Nail’s releases of the past few years (the instrumental Ghosts in particular). While it may irritate some fans, his deliberate shying away from the vocal spotlight gives the band a much-needed sense of character and voids them of simply being a watered-down version of Nine Inch Nails.
Mariqueen Maandig (aka Mrs. Reznor) holds her ground during the likes of ‘The Space In Between’ and ‘A Drowning’, utilizing her delicate, sensual croon to offset the dark soundscapes that Trent and Atticus summon. These two songs in particular sound like they have been plucked from some dramatic motion picture soundtrack- they’re dark, atmospheric and have an unsettling quality that ensures they’re the most satisfying listens of the bunch.
At times, it does sound as though Trent is plagiarizing himself. The similarities between the songs contained on this EP and his latter work in Nine Inch Nails are a little too close for comfort. It’s hard to shake a feeling of déjà vu when listening to ‘Parasite’ or ‘Fur Lined’ (the latter sounding like a sped up version of Nine Inch Nail’s ‘Only’, except with female vocals). Hopefully, with subsequent releases, the ties to older bands will become less evident and How To Destroy Angels will develop a more distinct sound, reflecting each member’s input equally.
Elsewhere, ‘BBB’ and ‘The Believers’ reinstate Trent and Atticus’ shared affection for dark, down-tempo pop music. Both are crammed with synthesizers, glitchy effects and artificial gurgles. Except for the vocals, these songs are reminiscent of the duo’s work on Nine Inch Nail’s Ghosts.
While Trent Reznor’s inclusion was always going to act as the band’s biggest focal point, his presence is certainly not overwhelming on this EP. In fact, his input is quite the contrary: he dabbles behind the scenes, allowing his songwriting expertise to act as a platform for his wife’s vocal talents. The essence of Nine Inch Nails may linger throughout, but it’s broken up by Mariqueen’s vocals together with the band’s inclination towards a darker pop-music sound. It’s interesting but not groundbreaking.
Download the EP here and decide for yourself.
1. The Space in Between
3. Fur Lined
5. The Believers
6. A Drowning