It may seem somewhat churlish to critique a free EP, but as there may be a few unfortunate souls out there who are, as yet, undecided about whether they should give Trent’s new work the time of day, we’ll weigh in with our two pennies worth.
Of course, being Trent Reznor’s first work since NIN waved goodbye last year there is a natural aura of expectation surrounding How to destroy angels’ debut release and it is not unjustified. Opening with the pared down electro rhythms of ‘The Space in between’ it is immediately clear that marriage has not stripped Trent of the darkness that inhabits his work. A creepy bass line surges beneath the beat, while Mariqueen Maandig provides a beautiful, yet desolate, vocal that recalls the spectral beauty of Dubstar (who released the minor indie hit ‘Stars’ in the 90s) and perfectly fits the music. Long-time NIN collaborator Atticus Ross fills out the band and the track with heavily processed guitar and synth lines and it ends in a wash of noise that dissolves into ‘parasite’, the first track that sees Trent join in on vocals. A bass heavy track, layered with feedback and noise, it would easily fit onto the masterful Fragile set and while this band may be a more collaborative effort than NIN’s body of work, it is still has Trent’s signature stamped all over it.
‘Fur lined’ is a very different animal, actually harking back to ‘with teeth’ NIN, with syncopated rhythms and Mariqueen’s vocal more overtly dance orientated than on the darker tracks – not that this is a bad thing, just that it is markedly different from the dark-wave styling of the first two tracks. ‘BBB’, by contrast, is closer allied to the soundscapes created for ‘Year zero’, all whispered vocals and bass-heavy electronica. It’s spectacularly creepy and a highlight of this all-too-short EP. ‘The believers’ recalls the fan-dividing oddities of ‘Ghosts’ (albeit with vocals), while ‘A drowning’ is a beautiful slice of dark pop which bring the darkest moments of Depeche Mode filtered through the tormented beauty of ‘right where it belongs’ to mind.
After all How to destroy angels is everything we could have hoped for. Still dark, yet shot through with aching melodies the music is exquisitely produced and perfectly executed by a master craftsman. Mariqueen is a superb front-woman, fragile and yet with a hint of menace in her voice that perfectly complements the darkness of the music. Available free from the band’s website (or in high-definition for a mere $2) as well as on CD and (coming soon) vinyl, this is a must for fans of NIN and newcomers alike. Compelling, filled with nuances that will have you discovering new elements to treasure long after the initial thrill wears off, this is a mini masterpiece that heralds amazing things for the future.