by Mark McConville (@Writer1990Mark)
When you think about Nine Inch Nails, there is always a sense of secrecy, as you don’t know what to expect from the American musical stalwarts. They never bend their sound to fit in, they’re truly doing it for themselves and a faithful so infatuated by whatever they create. With the enigmatic Trent Reznor plying his trade since day one, they’ve have become a seasoned, ultimately popular outfit.
Popularity doesn’t always mean that the act are sell-outs or damaging to an ever-changing music industry. Yes, there are bands who have altered their sound and have picked up an abundance of cash, but NIN are richer in creativity more than anything. Their sound is drastic at times and can be blunt with Reznor’s trademark vocals sending strips of darkness through the light. Now in 2017, the band have stood back under a glitzy spotlight to give us a new EP in the shape of Add Violence.
Yet again, we’ve been treated to something dark and arresting. Something imaginative and slightly obscure, an EP which offers a mental picture of self-loathing. That’s what we come to expect from NIN, a piece of art, not spotless but true. An EP that features experimental hooks and mind bending lyricism from Reznor’s fearless but unhinged mind.
With all the experimentation, the EP is fluent. Reznor is confident as ever, putting down words of rage. He’s an engrossing figure too, balancing his vocals, spreading his words like wings, startling the listener with soaring sneers and a powerful presence. These lyrics must come from a deep understanding of life and its tribulations. Hardships that still hurt, wounds that still sting.
On opening track "Less Than," Reznor’s trademark words stretch out. As the chorus bubbles through, Reznor marks his territory and let’s his rage withstand the pressure. It seems like he’s bellowing about someone that’s lost their way as he sings, "Go and look at what you’ve done/welcome oblivion/did it fix what was wrong with you/are you less than’. The track is also backed by technical instrumentals which add tension.
"The Lovers" is another poignant, profoundly haunting song. Its somberness is compelling and the track never ceases to amaze. Reznor offers his singing prowess, but it’s the lyrics which come out on top. He wants to fall into the arms of a lover, a person he has deep affection for, singing, "Take me into the arms of the lovers". The song also offers deeply disturbing wordplay "A light shines still always/shadows in every word/beneath black eaves/please don’t leave me here." Reznor seems to crave some sort of clinical and warm touch, he doesn’t want to be stranded in darkness.
Lasting over 11 minutes, "The Background World" is musically sound and lyrically cohesive. Reznor sings with hurt, he sings with an urgency. Yet again the lyrics offer insightful depth and spark the imagination, "The world is bleeding out/it folds itself In two/it’s always bleeding through". The band have created another record which showcases their strengths admirably.