Year : 2013
Genre : Synth Pop / Dark Synth Pop
Label : Columbia / The Null Corporation
Origin : United States
Rating : 8.5 / 10
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According to his own words, Nine Inch Nails fronter Trent Reznor has been less than honest about the actual state of affairs the NIN potentialities allegedly been subjected to since 2009, the very year marking the beginning of the hiatus the band embarked on until further notice. A wizard worth calling one does not show up again without a new trick or two up his sleeve, though - and a wizard WILL show up when the trick is ready to be showcased. At the first quarter of 2013, Trent Reznor stated that he was secretly working with his NIN collaborators on new material all the way back from the better part of 2012, - I'd imagine they wanted to make some music yet before the alleged Apocalypse had a chance to be postponed once again in a Universe that reigns in constant salvation and would have no trouble adapting to anything - and the time logically arrived to transmute this now-revealed and simultaneously massacred secret into a mental and emotional construct you, as a randomer fond of Nine Inch Nails can freely relate to : new album was on its way, and now it is here in its full splendor. This review primarily is positioned as a per track inspection, yet later I will share my personal sentiments on the overall experience. Read on to know more about the tracks.
"The Eater of Dreams"
The first track is a glitch minisymphony intro. It's like - totally glitchy and abstract, dude! Good jaub!
"Copy of A"
Following the modal/cybernetic calibrations the intro have amended on your receptors, track number 2, "Copy of A", really comes across as a pretty much PERFECT - I'm very cautious not to throw words like this easily and freely - dark synthpop track that has a deeply metaphysical and transhumanistic overtone, and let me tell you something that I think should be addressed at this point : there is a saying of Canadian silence massacrer Devin Townsend, - see review of his recent work here - who claims that everybody - including himself - tries to come up with something genuinely interesting, then, in this process, everyone rips off Meshuggah. First of all, I found this statement very honest and delightful in a world where the suspicion of rampant musical meshuggahnism - the best thing that happened to music and to you since I don't know when - expresses itself on places you really would not anticipate it, and you are very happy to see it. I'm 100% sure that Dave Grohl secretly listens to Meshuggah, finding himself intrigued by the rhythm patterns, and you can see the reflections of these listening sessions in songs like opener "Burn your bridges" - the very start of the song is totally Meshugga-ish - if there is such a word at all - or check out the spots of emphasis in the song "Rosemary". Hell, what about the first big hit single from the record, "Rope"? The main riff is picture perfect Meshuggah, done with legitimate care to complement the ethos with a more tender/bluesy feel. Have no doubt whatsoever that Dave Grohl is an avid covert Meshuggah fan. I dare you to object, Dave! See? He did not.
As you probably suspect by now, I'm picking up a Meshuggah vibe in the focal elements of this NIN song, "Copy of A", elements done in a very tasteful and original way - but the intention is the same : to build up and showcase a supra-unorthodox pattern that SEEMINGLY makes no sense at first glance, yet it demands deeper and deeper recognition and attention as you inspect it, and shows a truly intriguing capacity to contain eloquent meaning. This is the whole idea in Meshuggah metal - you have to decode the transmission, you have to decipher the equation, and the reason you are inclined to do so indeed, is that Meshuggah assumes you to be capable to decode patterns that are more complex than standard pummel pulsations willing to submit to the seemingly perennial laws of time, and they showcase how time is delighted when it gets thrown around playfully, entertained thoroughly via emphasis and gaps - patterns that dare to deviate from orthodox structure tactics - and why would you want to disappoint people who are kind enough to assume such a nice thing of you? Not as if there would be anything wrong with orthodox structures at all, - I mean, Master of Puppets is still a 111% granite balls variant on the perennial heavy metal song, and "a copy of it" - the band Iced Earth is very enthusiastic at miming the anatomies of Master of Puppets, for example - is JUST a copy of it. Pretty appropriate place to voice this notion on, considering the title of the observed NIN song.
This very intention to demand sounds to express more involved complexity is evident in the very base structure of this NIN statement, "Copy of A". Listen how the drum machine joins to the bass, and the two succeed masterfully at revealing the pacing of time in a completely illegal - and therefore ballsy! - manner. The same feelings you get from the "actual" beginning - following the intro - of the Meshuggah song "Do not look down", for example. The song occupies the position of a splendid mixture of Depeche Mode and Squarepusher. Notice the band's readiness and content at relying on very light spirited synthetizers. With this song, Nine Inch Nails exhibits a ripe understanding on how to arrange and detail rich sonic fabrics with vibrant sounds that are not at all in a hurry to intimidate, and warrant masterful/intricate complexity even when they tumult, due to their capacities to relate to each other in relevant constellations, as result of meticulous work dedicated to optimize and streamline their volumetrics driven by the agenda to coo-perate. The central hook is superb, reeking of elegant simplicity as it successfully declares itself as the logical and uplifting conclusion of the thrill and intrigue established by the Meshuggahistic bass and base patterns. Reznor sings a simple, yet very powerful melody, of which the main anatomical points are revered by the harmonic background as Law. Truly fascinating and beautiful stuff. The distorted-ass sound that comes in at 3:03, right after the hook : a very respectful and simultaneously frightening entity that does not invade anything out of the sum total of things it simply isn't supposed to even fiddle with. It shows an ugly face, and never touches anyything. That's the ONLY kind of trolling I can respect. At 4:12, notice the Yello-ish tribal drums joining in the fray! Boris Blank approves wholeheartedly, and Dieter Meier has only two words to say, one of them is :"Ooooh". As a funny display of the extremely skillful mixing and build-tactics, the band goes as far as to feature Reznor's singing even on the top of the extravagant cavalcade of sounds the statement eventually unfolds into. I honestly love every second of this track, and I'm sooooo glad to get this transmission from NIN, and not some desperate "We can STILL totally do this shit, guys!" - vibe.
"Came Back Haunted"
The song immediately offers up a naturalistic-, and not even desperate Dubstep base, modestly/cautiously complimenting a haunted castle vibe, but not venturing into absurd Scooby Doo cartoon metal territory, and the generic feeling of Zombie Girl, - "Creepy Crawler", anyone? - is skilfully evaded, as well. Yet the verse openly reveals insecurity and a "not-sure-edness" if the elements of the table will be suitable to mix up something worth beholding for minutes without you sleeping off in devoted secret disgust of the imminent machinations. You know, when a chick seeks to sound dangerous, and you give her a carress on the top of the head. Wouldn't dare to pull that move out when fucking Free Dominguez is angry with me. But who knows if Free Dominguez is angry anymore of anything. I loved her best when she wanted to rip my heart out! But oh, man! NIN brings forth a brutally powerful chorus structure composed of colossal, insatiable collisions between in-your-face monolithic chords and visceral/simple/powerful bluesy singing. The chorus just started again and gave me shivers, which is the simultaneous maximum and optimum you can expect from music worth listening to. If your music fails to elicit this highly desirable effect, - according to Frank Zappa, the main idea = to entertain, words of wisdom, Sunshine! - your music sucks ancient monkey tits. Sorry. Deal with it and try again.
"Came Back Haunted" weighs in as another awesome track, especially because of its willingness to feature a relatively clumsy-looking verse structure - at first inspection - that is redeemed superbly by the chorus, and even looks great AFTER the chorus! The verse has that little tint/imminent threat of Dave Mustaine's trademark and lousy cabaret terror thrash metal - you know, the genre of music Mustaine declares from when he has nothing TRULY to say. I love Megadeth and Mustaine. But Mustaine sometimes is suspect of lying MUSICALLY. By these occasions, he utilizes no true musical thought you could relate to, he instead abuses pinball machine grade thrash metal supra-clichés like descending chromatically. I'm glad you are 12 years old again, Dave. Even better, when in cabaret thrash mode, Dave delivers microwaveoven-heated pseudo-gurgles as if he'd really have a bad fucking time - whereas it is me having it, listening to this pretentious sub-genre of him - revolving around the same thematical fixations about fast cars, high speeds, - "High Speed Dirt" is a great song, no pun intended - hot lead, good old fashioned beatings and whatnot, arranged to chromatic harmonic passages plagued by gaps that have no other relevance and role than to try and make you feel gratitude when they come again, finally undisturbed. It is very kind of you, manipulating me in ways so I should be grateful for you chromatically descending from your "A" note to the open "E" string. I mean, I love the guy - Mustaine - that is why I dare to be honest about my feelings regarding the spots I find very weak and pretentious in his music, and he probably doesn't read this blog anyway - I think he wrote a gazillion badass songs, and I think Metallica should recruit the guy again and make an album with him. I suspect this arrangement could facilitate an album of extraordinary significance, and they kinna' owe it to each other and to themselves AND to metal history to make that record, in my opinion. But Dave can't deceive an elite level snob with cabaret terror thrash metal, and elite level snobs are paying money to get tips from me.
Anyhoo. The thing I dig about this particular NIN track, "Hesitation Marks", is this very dance on the razor's edge, when they seem to exhibit creative vulnerability and insecurity, and when I finally decide to emerge to bitchslap this track, it reveals its true nature and roars into my face with superb believability and top tier, visceral convey power. Fuck yeah! The song definitely radiates a Depech Mode vibe, but it features more grit and unalloyed viscera. When Depeche Mode blankets you with submissive spirit-tar, Nince Inch Nails brings out the spikes and the hammer, letting you figure out the rest, which I suppose is highly appropriate.
"Find My Way"
I feel almost embarrassed that once again I have to strike up a Depeche Mode connotation, but this song, too, is very reminiscent to the ethos represented by the Brits. The structure revolves around the inventive counter-pointing of a more self-reflective, contemplative mood - the verse - and the chorus, in which the Depeche Mode vibe expressed itself 101% - listen to the Cthulhu synth of soul-wrenching doom - AND the chorus, which is submissive. Listen how Reznor sings that "oh-oh-oh-oh", it is a reflection of acceptance of what is to come, be whatever it may, after all the bullshit you have YET had to put into the delusion of self-centered physical immortality, whereas the song, and especially this part reeks of the recognition of not being physically immortal, after all, but, what the fuck, I'll "oh-oh-oh" my way on and see what's up. Pretty mature, precise, yet not at all arrogant nor condescending recollection/evaluation of supra-normal and everyday average human spiritual ponderings that the majority of people would assume to be weaknesses, even though everyone is suffering of not being permitted to openly showcase these perfectly valid aspects of having a human experience packet. I'd like to draw your attention to a very interesting part, starting roughly from 4:10 : gradually, the song gets invaded by the total number of synths this planet and this cosmos has ever seen, as if each sound would represent another sentience, revealing its potentiality at the same sonic place that happens to be occupied by myriads of others, including the narrator - everyone could be the narrator, that is the reason the song works. Every person has a song in their heart, and every person hears this heart in each song. And, if this song in your heart happens to be awesome, THEN you have the capacity to recognize the awesomeness of the song in the other person's heart. That is the reason Trent Reznor listens to Meshuggah : they keep inventing all kinds of awesome.
In the exquisite, sonically supra-layered and ultra-perverted - in a good way - culmination of this track, the effect indeed is such as if the narrator finally would have arrived to his spiritual home to evaluate the Earthy experiences among peers. OR, you can get scared shitless of the ending, if this is your thing. But I want to see you freak out, so call me before that! Another excellent track, I must say. I would be totally content with a more orthodox ending, too, but the layered - literally - symbolism the band I suspect has utilized, really stimulates me at emotional places I'm grateful for. The ending is a Bonus!, AND a great one at that. A bonus is not necessarily a great thing, imagine the bonuses Mr. Satan would invite you to ponder.
"All Time Low"
This track reveals the pulsation of a hazy-, probably drug- and sex filled night of covert disillusionment of warm flesh and stimulants, and the lyrics similarly express suggested discontent of the things to come and be immersed into, but it is more like a situational assessment conducted by Mike Patton on his solo record, when he sings : "I can't believe I did it again" - and you can imagine the number of buckets of stimulants and hot chicks in the vicinity. The track has a sinister pulse of funk, and it is the exact type of music I would love to hear in Vesuvius bar in the timeless CRPG Vampire - The Masquerade - Bloodlines. It would be the perfect second song after the superb track the Vesuvius bar indeed includes. I'm picking up a David Bowie similarity, too : "Deranged", for example. I just got information that Trent Reznor has a well defined Bowie fandom, he was listening to Bowie's 1977 album while he - Reznor - worked on "Downward Spiral." This track, "All Time Low", is deliberately supra-sexual and submissive from a sonical point of view, with reverberating sounds coating the every last piece of the landscape - "We never going to die, how did we get so high?" - the main idea, really. Though this isn't per se metal, but the main idea of metal is reflected thoroughly. The agenda of metal is to express discontent with the state of affair that you are neither animal, nor god ENOUGH. Meshuggah made me realize that, and for this, I'm grateful eternally and maximally. A superb song with a lot of high frequency details revealed at the climax, while the comfortzone-optimized singing addresses the gravitational pulls of moods you could sustain when your only and prime concern is to harvest pleasure and joy on maximum related efficiency. God kind of deserves your despise for giving you only 24 hours a day to immerse yourself into pleasures, eh? It is funny how NIN observes this paradox. According to Oscar Wilde, a paradox is a truth standing on its head. There comes a point where the amount of pleasure you harvest becomes the very thing that leaves you without true, heartfelt direction and drive, and I suspect this is the focal idea of this song. The most essential component of the artist is not the skill at all, but the desire to create a flow of patterns she/he recognizes as a flow of patterns worth creating. Once obscured, let alone lost, nothing can substitute this pretty much sacred desire, and the song arrives to the same conclusion while enjoying flawless material comfort in the physical. When you have everything to consume and have nothing to offer, you are a poor man.
Playful, Squarepusheresque synthop beginning, spiced up by an enigmatic sung quasi-folk vibe through which Reznor relates to the ethos of "high" expectations. You can dismiss shit on the fly, without truly knowing it, as a subject matter worth relating to, demands your attention. And indeed, the process of checking stuff out can not be automatic in the Information age. The attention power is expensive. The band has a thoughtful narrative take on the matter, emphasized by the powerful chorus work, in which synths convey the role of the rhythm guitar - very nicely, I must add! I know I already have used a Yello connotation, and this is the time I will do it again, as certain ingredients of this track are picture perfect Yello, and this is a good thing, by the way! The Swiss duo oftentimes makes use of percussive instruments in a way as to give them pitch value, and this is a precedent you will have chance to immerse yourself throughout this track, as well - or notice the monumental synth coming in at 2:56 just to stay around and suck/flush the royal soul out of you - very Yello in character. (No pun intended.) The song emerges as a successful alloy assembled by two main separate sections, and I can admire the hint - JUST! a hint - of the oriental flow exhibited as the sequence the delivery pummels out itself with. Once again, verrrry Yello-esque, and this is a good thing, still.
What starts out as a light spirited punk rock piece, turns into planetary warzone-grade audio attack in the chorus : the thickness of the guitars NIN employs here - for the first time on the record, mind us - give a run for their money for all black metal bands. Other than that, the verse is pretty much Foo Fighters bubblegum rock. I mean, if you are a grown ass man and you are still a Foo Fighter for life, then you invent all kinds of new suspicions in me. In my opinion, this, too, is a successfully structured and well executed song, but definitely not one of the current highlights for me, yet this might change all the time.
NIN goes George Michael "Faith" on your ass. Oh really? Okay, show me the "animel". The track, while contemplative on the surface, reveals a tad more of Marilyn Manson's occasional lullaby-ding-ding-dong musical rhetorics than I can tolerate without a series of highly successful nervous breakdowns. The conspiracy theory narrative the song utilizes, - I think NIN must have liked "The Demon's Name Is Surveillance" track - does not do THAT much to me, not in this pseudo-uneventful, supra-placid pacing the track offers as its firs choice of behavior. It is like "Give peace a chance", an industrialist's take on bonfire compatible quasi-joy music. Granted, the subject matter supposed to be sinister, but it does not even try hard to make me believe. At 2:16, as we are going into the chorus, Reznor exclaims : "Come on!", as if you would do if you were an English teacher in a Chinese kindergarten. If the song is not good enough, then you want to - you HAVE to - agitate your audience a little bit. In my view, this "Come on!" is a sign of this, and also is a sign of Reznor not being so sure about this song.
The song showcases significant redeeming qualities at its climax, revealing an "Eminence Front" - The Who - vibe, and eventually - though rather fucking painstakingly - the whole song claims true convince power - but the clueless Inspector Gadget "clapyourhandsnow!" joymusic fuckaroundery at the start is simply way too much to be galantly overlooked.
"Various Methods of Escape"
I swear to you that this song is an anatomical variant on Filter's 1995 superb track "Nice Shot". While this tune is much less provocative and morose, the anatomical similarity between the super-orthodox structures and choruses of the two songs is rampant, in my opinion. I have no problem nor ravings with/about this entry, but I find it a rather safe and risk free delivery, especially when I inspect it along the angle of the similarity I'm picking up on. This song, in my opinion, seems to lack both a pre-chorus/a buildup, and a true culmination. At the end of the round, you left with a feeling of puzzled disillusionment. Hello,my favorite troll friend, you, who suspect that this pretty much is the story of my life. Oh well. If the song's title would be "Something's Missing Here", then I'd praise the genius of the band! Instead, the chorus comes in as a relatively sour substitute for a "Stone Souresque" pre, - they love utilizing those - and you left without a true culmination. By true, visceral culmination I mean such precedents like the way "Nice Shot" culminates with the "A. Man. Has. Gun." -part. Not here. You left hungry here. Nothing to see here, move along! Not sure about this track, but I probably can see where it is coming from. I might, of course, be mistaken. According to my percepts, NIN did not want to risk anything in this track, and the result - logically - is a song in which NIN does not risk anything. I urge you to listen to this song, and THEN listen to Filter's "Nice Shot". I guarantee you that "Nice Shot" will rip your fucking mind out. No pun intended, okay? Don't go postal.
Quite experimentive and, initially devoid of the true surface characteristics you'd have an easy time to instantly identify. This always is a good thing, in my experience. The sooner I can identify them, the less likely I'll be surprised by you expressing your alleged creative potentialities. A great, harmony-ridden chorus relieves the central tension, giving place to an almost Neanderthal caveman-synthpop vibe, expressed with a wide array of primarily percussive embellishments. This is the third time I reference Yello, but I truly feel that NIN transmits from the same landscapes from time to time in this effort. Reznor's singing manages to find an easily memorable melodic arch that emerges popesque - kind of a '80s "Tarzan Boy" vibe - without robbing the song out of all dignity.
Notice the crazy-ass caveman guitars starting out at 3:07, combined with the manic voodoo peepoo, magic peepoo singing : NIN seeks to reveal the perennial Neanderthal, an attempt at T-Rex techno. I like how Reznor goes Jimmy Sommerville at the climax, revealing the upper tints of his mixed voice registers. You don't know who Jimmy Sommerville is? He is your papi.
This "I feel love" song is hilarious, - one of the most powerful choruses known to me - especially if you consider it from the angle of a homosexual statement - because the meaning of love in a form that reigns beyond the flesh, is similarly suggested, and, is such, necessarily is expressed in the song. Do I need to be homosexual to find this song superb? The track does not give you real estate to be a homophobic AND comfortable at the same time in your homophobic belief system, seeing what a good time these homosexuals are having, being homosexuals. This is just infuriating for a homophobic, I suppose. AND I hope, too! A homophobic is suspect of HIM being afraid of cultivating rampant/covert/oppressed homosexual fascinations, because such is the level of despise towards homosexuality in him, that this possibility should not be discarded. Why do you feel the need to assure me that you don't find muscular male bodies sexually attractive? Oh, you so totally really really mean it? Why would you hate something you don't truly understand? And why would you hate anything once you do? Hate is so pathetic, irrational. Who has the fucking time for such nuances. Mind us that this song is from the '80s, and I find it current to this day.
Hating gays IS what gay is.
"I Would For You"
A straightforward, polite industrial song, delivered from underneath a monolithic body of hypothetical hopelessness utilized only to see if it could be escaped from. Yes, it is doable. The song is only 4:30, after all. I'm not too thoroughly impressed by the verse - supra-orthod bluesy/angsty goth politeness - yet the chorus certainly renders a pattern worthy to soak two ears or more into - but nothing too extraordinary. Superconventional.
The song indeed is composed out of two main parts, - plus a brief climax, once again revealing the character of the first part - and both of these assets are driven of clear, and intriguing intentions. The first part is built upon an impertinently simple quasi-metal pattern of interchanging your root note with its immediate halt-step upper neighbor, yet the band depicts this scenario with masterfully placed ornamentics, proving that music itself is ready and able to entertain every and all moment of it if you are inventive and adept enough to demand the inherent moment to reveal its beauty. The beauty and the horror always is there abundantly, and it is always up to you which one you want to experience. I can live with the chorus of the song, as it demands the liberty to go Abba Disco Ball on your hide - I love Abba and you love it too - while they let the whole build arrive at an inventive (?) stall at 2:55. Why the "(?)"? If you are any kind of a curious musician, sooner or later you will find yourself being supra-fascinated with how a given pattern behaves when placed on top of different harmonic backdrops, - they can be suggested only by a bass line, it is perfectly valid - and, this exactly is the thing you'll experience in the climax of this song. See the harmonies indicated by the bass line.
"While I'm Still Here"
This song reeks Genesis' "Mama" to me, with a much less powerful verse structure. OR chorus, for that matter. Listen to this song, and then listen to Genesis' "Mama", and you'll see what I mean. The track is somewhat - JUST somewhat - redeemed by the pretty much trademarky harmonies at the chorus, but don't expect all THAT much wonders from it, this time.
Looks like the band found the magic to be relatively scarce, too, so they overcompensate like asshair on fire : you will have brief clean guitars on top for 3-4 secs, you will have bass saxophones delivering a ballsy line for a casual moment of surprise, - Yello's "The Race", anyone? - I will link "The Race", because it is 1 of the best songs ever made, so it might no be superpopular right now, which is just wrong - and a generic feel of insecurity is observable. But!! With -
NIN decides to summon Cthulhu to consume the whole "While I'm Still Here" vibe. A truly superbly/masterfully executed singularity of sound is observable in this statement. Five seconds of it is more interesting, to me, than the entirety of the "While I'm Still Here" song, but I realize that you need to have "While I'm Still Here", so the "Black Noise" can claim a function of destruction. Awesome ending, to be honest! To be fucking destroyed by a sonic declaration of doom. Much more badass than to park your flesh in the bed in at attempt to let it rot. Oh well.
I think the album is a strong effort, with quite a few moments of extremely powerful patterns. "Copy of A" is 101% megalusciousness, such is the monumental and initial insecurity of "Came Back Hunted", too, and, to be honest, I have no particular qualms with the parts where I find the band ready and able to be submitted to the "you don't really have anything to say, admit it"-vibe. By these times, they engineer orthodox builds, on top of which Trent sings in laid-back quasi-folkish manner, usually filled with the agenda to counterpoint these moments of respite with sharply, strongly defined choruses. The disc is not hard to relate to, and its peak characteristics definitely convey significance of eternal value. As such, I will be kind in the rating, because I always am.
Rating : 8.5 / 10
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