ALBUM REVIEW: NINE INCH NAILS, “NOT THE ACTUAL EVENTS”

nine-inch-nails-new-album-cover-2016-billboard-1240

Words By: Gerrod Harris

Release Date: December 23rd, 2016

After the release of Hesitation Marks in 2012, Nine Inch Nails went on a handful of tours and have not put out any new music since.  In the meantime, Trent Reznor, the mastermind behind Nine Inch Nails, along with Atticus Ross, have scored the soundtracks behind major Hollywood projects, including Gone Girl, Patriots Day, and Before The Flood.  Proving to be an excellent song writing duo, Ross has joined Reznor for Not The Actual Events, the latest Nine Inch Nails EP which makes good on Reznor’s promise for new material in 2016.  While late- and released in a semi-surprise style- Not The Actual Events proves to be well worth the wait.

“Branches/Bones”:  The short opener serves as a very exciting peek at the first material by Nine Inch Nails in just over four years.  The song takes a fistful of punk rock clichés and outfits them in a very fresh and modern blend of electronic elements and live instruments to create a very unique song that is over before you know it.

“Dear World,”:  “Dear World,” is, in many ways, the sequel to Hesitation Marks.  The song uses many similar electronic textures from the previous album, assembled in a rhythmic manner, creating a dance pop vibe to combat a certain underlying uneasiness- as perfected on Hesitation Marks and the original score for Gone Girl.  The song builds on this and is nothing short of great, yet I can’t help but feel that it is slightly out of place on this EP.  The other tracks all feel much larger and very dark and sinister.  “Dear World,” certainly shares a similar tone, but it’s musical delivery conveys a very different message from the rest of Not The Actual Events.

“She’s Gone Away”: To quote my dad, “What is that you’re listening to? It sounds like you’re in hell. Nine Inch what?”  In many ways, that is one of the best ways to describe “She’s Gone Away”.  This track is among Reznor’s darkest and most harrowing tracks ever.  Part of this is the eerie electronic textures of the synth, the mechanically evil tone of the drums, the sporadic and dissonant guitar line, and Reznor’s choice to sing most of the track in a very low and bellowing range.  In many ways, this is the precursor to the EP’s closing track, “Burning Bright (Field On Fire)”, making the two tracks the best on Not The Actual Events.

“The Idea Of You”:  Following the pounding pulse of Dave Grohl’s drums, and Reznor’s crunching and offbeat guitar line, the song embraces odd time signatures and is the most middle of the road rock song on the EP.  That being said, the song is very heavy, and is by no means simple.  In many ways, while obviously cleverly constructed, the song feels like a jam in multiple spots, including the synth solo, and the songs large conclusion, with Grohl playing complex rhythmic figures which collide with the other ideas floating around.  Where Reznor approaches almost all of his work in a highly compositional manner, it is very interesting to hear him partake in something which resembles a semi-improvised jam, even if that’s exactly what it was designed to sound like.

“Burning Bright (Field On Fire)”:  Released as the EP’s lead single just two days ahead of the EP, “Burning Bright (Field On Fire) is-while difficult to pick among such a strong album- one of the best tracks on Not The Actual Events.  In many ways, this is Reznor taking Phil Spector’s iconic wall of sound production and engineering style (which made work by The Ronettes, The Beatles, and George Harrison sound so full) and twist it in such a way that is sounds as if it could only have emerged from hell.  “Burning Bright (Field On Fire) is so dense, and at times it is near impossible to make out all that is going on, yet it marches forward at an ominous pace.  For additional darkness in the songs tone, Reznor got Dave Navarro to deliver what may be some of his heaviest and most haunting guitar work ever throughout the course of this track.

Not The Actual Events is an excellent collection of five songs, serving as an EP that lives up to the steadily increasing hype over the last four years.  There is no doubt about it that Reznor is one of the most outstanding song writers of the 1990’s and of the present, but the contributions from Ross- another highly talented song writer in his own right- also makes for a very welcomed addition.  While I can only really complain about the EP’s length- clocking in at just over twenty minutes- Reznor, upon the release of Not The Actual Events has teased that 2017 will see not one, but two major releases from Nine Inch Nails– perhaps these will be the actual events.  If Not The Actual Events is even a slight indicator of the direction he plans to take with these releases- or even one of them- then we should all be beyond excited to see what the new year brings from Reznor as Not The Actual Events is more than enough to stimulate your expectations and will likely lead to many people and publications having to rewrite their best of 2016 lists.

 

Track Listing:

1: Branches/Bones

2: Dear World,

3: She’s Gone Away

4: The Idea Of You

5:Burning Bright (Field On Fire)

Listen to “Burning Bright (Field On Fire)”:

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