ALBUM REVIEW: NINE INCH NAILS, “ADD VIOLENCE”

add violence

Words By: Gerrod Harris

Release Date: July 21st, 2017, via The Null Corporation

Following the release of last year’s Not The Actual Events EP, Trent Reznor has promised that not one, but two more EP’s from Nine Inch Nails will be released this year.  The first of which, takes the form of the newly released Add Violence.  This EP also coincided with a last minute show in Bakersfield, California, on July 19th, marking Nine Inch Nails’ first show in roughly three years.

“Less Than”:  Opening the record with the joyous sound of a 1980’s synth- one which would sound cheesy and dated if it was on anyone else’s record- the song sounds quite poppy, but upon a deeper listen, you’ll notice a sonic dissonance from the electric guitar as it harmonically and stylistically clashes with the synth and Reznor’s vocal melody.  This is a welcome juxtaposition as it poses the song not as an 80’s underground dance hit, but rather a dystopian misadventure through the future.  The song was first released along with the announcement of the Add Violence EP and is certainly the most single worthy among the album for the only reason that it poppy and fun.

“The Lovers”:  This song is nearly entirely made up of electronic textures and is instrumental if you exclude the sparse and quiet murmurs of Reznor.  Largely consisting of electric pings and a Latin inspired groove, “The Lovers” ultimately displays Reznor’s minimalist capabilities without sacrificing quality.

“This Isn’t The Place”:  Similar to “The Lovers” in the sense that it is haunting while also stretching the boundaries of creativity, “This Isn’t The Place” showcases Reznor’s incredibly voice at the forefront of the tracks production.  The song itself is a direct cross between Reznor’s dark and ambient work on recent film scores with Atticus Ross (Gone Girl comes to mind) and his seminal 1994 release, The Downward Spiral.  The song is as eerie as it is avant-garde and captures Reznor is what sounds to be a venerable and emotion filled ballad.

“Not Anymore”:  The song is likely the most energetic and abrasive of the album.  In many ways, “Not Anymore” is the grand climax to the trilogy which started with “The Lovers” and continued into “This Isn’t The Place”.  Each song builds on the same largely electronic vibe, with each track growing more and more haunting while also getting bigger and more chaotic sounding with each passing song.  This track features the most prominent vocals from Reznor across the whole album, while also playing with shifting pulses and clashing ambient and distorted textures, making it the strongest track on Add Violence.

“The Background World”:  While lasting a whole eleven minutes, “The Background World” is not a very moving piece.  The song follows a simple pulse and melody and with each completion of the short reoccurring phrase, the audio quality degrades ever so slightly until the song grows into an inaudible mass of droning and fuzzy tones.  This is a statement piece; it’s not meant to be catchy and eventually, it becomes so distorted that it doesn’t even resemble a song.  Whether it is simply a play on the title where the song slowly and subtly fades into the background or it is Reznor’s commentary on how important issues often dissipate into the background of our existence is unclear, however the song is certainly a statement as to how art can serve as a reflection of something far greater than just music and make a powerful statement, leaving the listener with more questions than answers.

In contrast with their previous release, Not The Actual Events– where the band took an aggressive and loud stance, Add Violence revels in its own simplicity and through using almost exclusively electronic textures, Reznor is able to create some of his most haunting and desolate soundscapes in decades.  There is a sense of depravity in Add Violence .  If we look at it as the second act to Reznor’s trilogy of EP’s, and without any idea which direction the concluding record will follow, perhaps Reznor is looking at mirroring what he observes to be a global decline in culture and ethics along with a parallel rise in violence and destruction.  Regardless, Add Violence is a strong addition to Nine Inch Nails’ discography, and much like Not The Actual Events, will leave fans craving for the third EP that is set to be released for an undetermined date later this year.

Watch the video for “Less Than”:

Listen to “This Isn’t The Place”:

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