The biggest question surrounding How to Destroy Angels is how the new project from Trent Reznor would differ from Nine Inch Nails. Even with former West Indian Girl frontwoman (and Reznor’s wife) Mariqueen Maandig on vocals, how far would the project veer from the sound, aesthetic, and attitude of the groundbreaking rock mainstay?
The band didn’t take long to start answering questions. After slowly dripping out teaser clips just over a month ago, the band has released it’s debut self-titled EP. How to Destroy Angels follows Reznor’s music-label-free distribution model: embrace the fact that music is essentially free, give the album away, and sell exclusive versions and premium material. However, it also follows Reznor’s recent musical endeavours.
Putting Nine Inch Nails on the backburner after nearly 20 years was supposed to give Reznor a chance to experiment with music that would not fit under the NIN banner. HTDA flows logically from Year Zero and The Slip, but it doesn’t break new sonic ground.
As a diehard fan of Nine Inch Nails, I will happily and eagerly devour new material from Reznor. Still, I can’t help feeling that this is a missed opportunity, especially with so many exciting trends in electronic music. Reznor owes much of his success to drawing on underground influences and giving them a mainstream shine (Skinny Puppy’s “Dig It” became “Down In It,” for example). I can just imagine the results if Reznor decided to make some Burial-style dubstep or Salem-ish drag music. Unfortunately, nothing on the EP would feel out of place in the recent Nine Inch Nails discography.
On its own merits, HTDA is worth the download (and not just because it’s free). The somber atmospherics of a song like “A Drowning” reveal more layers on each listen, and the four-on-floor attack of “Fur Lined” is as aggressive and sexy as ever. “The Space in Between” is accompanied by a grim video that finds Reznor continuing to push the envelope. So even if the answer is the easy one, we’re lucky that Trent is still answering questions.