It seemed the right time for Trent Reznor, the man behind the Nine Inch Nails name, to abandon his ideas and themes of self-destruction, and instead refocus his energies on a world that seemingly hit self-destruct itself. The basis of ideas here flowed into a concept album where fifteen years later (2022, to be exact) the world is in a terrible state far worse than the Global Financial Crisis beginning in 2007 could have ever created. This, ironically, is seemingly true, especially in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and with increasingly authoritarian government globally. Trent Reznor envisioned a future that was horrid, drawing upon science fiction and other similar themes of dystopian living cause primarily by corporate greed. In any case, Nine Inch Nails fans got a new album of interesting music earlier than expected. Let’s see if the music stands tall in retrospect.
First off is HYPERPOWER! which has some nicely mixed drumbeats and some intense electronic sounds to it. One can sense the sonic mastery and excitement here, and this is definitely a good start to this album. All sorts of very nicely mixed sounds are here, and this piece sounds really awesome. It builds up with sounds and textures towards the end, with the sounds of seemingly loads of people screaming underneath the beats here. Weird, but a good start to this record.
Following is The Beginning Of The End which has a really excellent beat to it, before Trent Reznor sings away. His voice sounds a little aged here, but that is to be expected after years of screaming hard. The lyrics are dark and morbid, but the whole piece is quite good. A good and catchy start to this recording, and a warning to the world about its direction that it is taking. Perhaps a little too late now for the world to listen, but a decent listen at that. The noise towards the end could have been edited out, but the drumbeats here throughout the song are very good.
Survivalism is more straightforward, with pulsating beats and electric sound melodies here. This is a direct stab at those living in the U.S.A. who are ignorant in thought, but all the same, this is not that impressive a song compared to NIN of old. Still, one can appreciate that Trent Reznor is still making good music today, even if it is not as good as The Downward Spiral. The midsection has some neat digital noises in it, which are pretty cool. The whole thing is a direct stab at religious/political fanaticism, by hearing it lyrically. A decent song, but lacking some of the old magic of previous releases. The outro is weird and freaky.
The Good Soldier begins with some awesome bass guitar and some nice beats, before entering into a Terminator style tale of destruction and gunfire. This is actually pretty good, and although this record can be patchy, the concept is awesome, as is the whole listening experience of this particular song. Beats and textures perfectly mix in this tale of fighting for freedom and justice in a world gone wrong. The sounds here are very good, and the whole thing is very catchy. Good song, a welcome warning to the world set to music. It ends with some classic Nine Inch Nails beats. Great stuff.
Next is Vessel which begins with some liquid and blood pulsating sounds, with some distorted beats as well. Some weird lyrics about swallowing are here, before launching into a piece of music that honestly isn’t fantastic. It’s good but nowhere near the heights of the 1990s concept albums that Trent Reznor made which were about hitting the self-destruct button. It is an anti-religious tune, which isn’t new to NIN. But it’s only okay, and somewhat lacking. It seems Trent Reznor is no longer an angry inward looking man, just an angry outward looking man now. The sounds here aren’t very original, there are a lot of static sounding melodies here.
Following up is Me, I’m Not which sounds really good, much better than what came before it. Some awesome Techno style sounds and good beats kickstart this one, before Trent Reznor begins singing quite well here. This is a good piece with some interesting melodies and rhythms throughout. The chorus has some weird electronic sounds in it, but that is to be expected by now. This is a very good song that could have been a soundtrack to a science fiction movie of some sorts. Still, the music here is interesting, although it could have been edited for length. The outro could have been rethought, too.
Capital G comes along next. It’s actually likely about George W. Bush, who was in power as U.S.A. president at the time of the release of this album. Regardless of what you know about politics or not, this is a pretty direct message from a musician to a figurehead. The lyrics are pretty much about the hypocrisy of power and how it affects people, even if it is about George W. Bush or not. Catchy and cool, it is one of the better pieces from this concept album. Great listen, a nice inventive and direct message about corruption.
My Violent Heart begins with some great subtle beats, funky bass and whispering from Trent Reznor. Singing about people sent off to war, this is a brilliant intellectual and musical statement, with a touch of the older style (for NIN) screaming in it. It seems as time has gone on, Trent Reznor is a more mature and politically aware person. The tune itself is loud and overbearing in the chorus, but hey, it’s supposed to be. There is a weird pastiche instead of a guitar solo here as the instrumental break here. An awesome tune, and a decent listen from this album. It fades out gently.
Next is The Warning which is cyber music heavy at the start, and has some great beats and textures to begin with. A rather discordant bass melody then comes into place, before Trent Reznor sings about a future that could be more dangerous than pleasant for the human race. If this is NIN staring into the crystal ball of the future, this is a really good warning indeed. A weird piece of music, but a decent one at that, this is a good listen if you dig George Orwell’s 1984 or anything similar in Pop culture. Good to hear. It ends with some static noise.
After that is God Given which has some (possibly) remixed beats from My Violent Heart but sounds pretty interesting. It is a poorer piece musically, even if it is continuing the concept and theme nicely. With some lyrics about the use and abuse of political power, Trent Reznor puts a solid intellectual argument to music. Although the intellectualism is much appreciated, this isn’t his best musically. But, does it hugely matter? The whispering here is pretty cool, and the whole track is okay. But still, it’s listenable. The outro is pretty good.
Meet Your Master begins with some thundering drum beats and some really cool cut up sounds. Before long, dirty bass and Trent Reznor’s awesome vocals enter. Another song about political power being used and abused, this is an in-your-face tune showcasing the dark side of political power out there. The sad fact is that this is a prophetic tune and album in many respects, showcasing how messed up the world has become. Regardless, this is an interesting listen. Perhaps not as solidly consistent as previous Nine Inch Nails, but just as dark, dramatic and essential listening. The outro builds up with a great groove to finish with some random electronic sounds. Neat.
The Greater Good begins with some basic beats and melodies, with Trent Reznor whispering over the top of this track. This is a weirder piece with some strange sounding piano in it. Seemingly an instrumental, but not bad for that. It draws heavily on a sort of darker and semi-Psychedelic experience than usual. The melodies here are really neat. There is some harp here too, which is different. Sounding a bit like Radiohead’s electronic stuff, this is a very good sort of different. Excellent tune, even though it is an instrumental. Great to hear, very different and nicely structured throughout. It ends with some rather high pitched sounds and main man Trent Reznor whispering gently.
The Great Destroyer is next, with some Techno/Acid style beats and Trent Reznor singing over the top of it. A shorter piece but a little weaker than some of the other material on this album. Lyrically it seemingly discusses the gradual degradation of culture over time. Midway there is an awesome vocal take, before launching into a beat driven solo piece here. A really interesting and in-your-face listen, this is definitely for fans of EDM this one. Pretty cool. Good job guys.
Next is Another Version Of The Truth which begins with more fuzz sounds building up gradually, with some electronic beats. Some odd sounding piano is in the background here, going into a rather melancholy and depressing piece of music. More static style sounds build up here, before going into a quieter section with the sad piano playing along. An instrumental along the lines of The Frail from The Fragile album, this is quite a moody listen. Good, but rather bleak sounding. It finishes off with static here, again.
We begin with more weird cut up beats of In This Twilight before real drum beats and Trent Reznor enter on a musical mission. It then goes into a terrible sounding groove that should not be here on this album. At this point, the album wears thin somewhat. Fortunately, the album is nearly over, but this is not a good listen this song. It easily could have been scrapped. Pretty terrible to hear, press skip if you wish to. It has a really lengthy outro as well.
Zero Sum is the last track here, beginning with some IDM like textures and sonics. This is more of a nod to the past of Nine Inch Nails than the future of the world. It is the longest track here on this album as well. This piece once again, is good but not great, although the cut up beats here are pretty cool. This is the end summary of the carnage of the futuristic sense of this album. The layering of instrumentation and the chanting are different, and indeed, if you agree with Trent Reznor, humanity has a very long way to go before we achieve a better world. Some more piano comes through towards the end of this piece, with some extra electronic noises added for good measure. It concludes with a super long fade out.
This is not the greatest album ever, nor is it the best of Nine Inch Nails, either. However, it is a strong statement conceptually that makes greater and greater sense to one as the years roll by, no matter if living under dictatorship or democracy. A call-to-arms for those who have political ideas that are anti-authoritarian and generally left-wing thought, it is only let down by the rather patchy music here. Still, it is a good album that falls short of being a great one, but the concept itself is awesome.
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