Trent Reznor has been stirring things up this year with the return of Nine Inch Nails. Ever since its announcement, it has been one of the most anticipated albums of the year. Since being compared to his prior release "The Downward Spiral" it had high expectations to live up to and luckily, it went above and beyond them. Here you won't find the tortured, broken Reznor like on other releases. Rather, he is looking back trying not to be that person and worried about fighting his demons all over again.
Just as with other NIN albums, this one is stellar with each song being a hit. Two of the standout tracks here are “Copy of a” and “Came Back Haunted.” The first song has this great heavy, techno industrial inspired music that kind of sounds like something that should be in an old school video game. Just as with most of Reznor's music, there are so many layers here. Every time you listen to it, you hear a new element or a new sound that you didn't catch before. “Came Back Haunted” has more of the synth electronic sound that really pulls you in to the song. The music here is pretty similar to dance sound found on his debut. This is where we start to see the references to his past with lyrics like “Everywhere now reminding me/I am not who I used to be/I'm afraid this has just begun/Consequences for what I've done, yeah.” Also found here is a small nod to “Closer.” Toward the end of the track the three note riff from that song softly plays underneath the rest of the music. It's not much, but it's a cool little reference to his past.
Aside from these tracks, there are plenty of other great songs with one being “Satellite.” It has an upbeat sound with a groove to it that gets you moving. The music buzzes and vibrates throughout as Reznor talks about spying on you. The theme of having your every move monitored really fits with the recent controversy regarding the NSA and Edward Snowden, yet he manages to make being spied on sound so damn good. This is definitely one of the catchiest songs on the album. But what's interesting about Reznor singing “I know you're up there somewhere” is he doesn't sound threatening or creepy; instead he sounds cunning and snarky. “In Two” is a fast paced, erratic track that sounds like Trent is trying to start a riot. What's cool is that he has so many different sounds here. During the bridge he sounds like a robot master while during the chorus he goes into this eerie falsetto. Then the music abruptly gets soft with whispering vocals before the intensity comes back.
“Everything” stands out from the other tracks only because it's the most upbeat one on the album. In fact, it might be the most upbeat song Reznor has ever done. Compared to the dark sound we expect from NIN it takes you by surprise, but after a while it grows on you. Actually, there's an interesting duality going on here. During the verses it's bright, upbeat, and positive with Reznor singing “I survived everything.” But during the chorus the music gets intense as Trent lets his insecurities about staying sober show through. “Find My Way” is a somber moment on the record with creepy, ethereal music humming throughout the track. It's a slower number with him trying to find his way back from addiction and depression. The evolving music keeps the listener's attention.
With an album that references Reznor's past and future, this is the strongest Nine Inch Nails album since the release of 2005's "With Teeth." Each song is remarkable with some tracks having a strong enough groove to make you dance while others make you want to sit in the corner and contemplate your life. Even though there's been a quite a gap between 2008's "The Slip" and this one, it's clear that Trent Reznor hasn't lost his stride and is making stronger music than ever.
This past August the band headline this year's Lollapalooza festival along with Queens of the Stone Age and legendary UK rockers The Cure. Nine Inch Nails is currently on their North American tour in support of the new album. Their eighth studio album "Hesitation Marks" is out now. To get your copy and to see where NIN are headed next, visit their official website.