How to Destroy Angels

Welcome Oblivion

Columbia, 180g 2LP or CD

Still, at 47 years old, Reznor’s

music has certainly started to

reflect his advancing age. As such,

his outbursts tend to take place

outside the recording studio these

days, and songs project something

closer to existential dread rather

than all-consuming rage. This is

true of both late-era Nine Inch Nails

albums like Ghosts I-IV, and his

award-winning film-composition

work for David Fincher movies The

Social Network and The Girl With

the Dragon Tattoo. Such haunted

vibes carry over into his full-length

debut with How to Destroy Angels,

a group that includes his wife,

Mariqueen Maandig, and longtime

producer/creative partner Atticus


The band, which first surfaced

shortly after Nine Inch Nails went

on hiatus three years ago—a

break that, to the surprise of

nobody, ended last month—is


A ny suggestion that Nine Inch Nails

mastermind Trent Reznor has

completely mellowed with age

should be immediately put to rest.

In a recent “Ask Me Anything” segment on the

popular Web site Reddit, the singer responded to one

inquiry (“As millionaires, why did you sign up with a

record label to promote your new album?”) in profanely

hilarious fashion, writing, “Sorry, the wifi on our yacht is

having issues, we can’t get your full question to load. Try

sending me an email at gofuckyourself@youcunt.com.”

more collaborative than Reznor’s

previous venture. Maandig, not

Reznor, handles primary vocal

duties. This, it turns out, is not

exactly a good thing. As a singer,

Maandig is pedestrian at best, and

the tunes on which she’s pushed

to the forefront (“How Long?”) are

among the weakest. Conversely,

the best work almost entirely

dispatches of vocals. Witness

the quietly simmering “The Loop

Closes,” which piles on spiky

synths and buzzing drums for

three tension-filled minutes before

Reznor and Maandig show up and

start whispering cryptic asides

(“The beginning is the end...”).

Fortunately, Welcome Oblivion

is an album driven almost solely by

texture and mood, and more often

than not, Maandig’s voice is treated

like another instrument in the mix.

On “Too Late, All Gone,” a slinky

number that sounds something

like robots copulating, her breathy

vocals inject the song with an air

of humanity. Likewise, the singer

acts as a flesh-and-blood foil to the

crackling, animatronic buzz of “And

the Sky Began to Scream.”

As time goes by, it seems

increasingly apt that Reznor titled

Nine Inch Nails’ 1989 debut Pretty

Hate Machine, and it seems as

though he’s spent a bulk of his

career crafting a sound that neatly

fits that image. Welcome Oblivion

rarely strays from this template (the

lone exception being the fractured

folk of “Ice Age”), Reznor and Finch

working in tandem to create a

bone-chilling landscape of whirring,

mechanized noise. It’s nothing new,

sure, but it still functions as a nifty

little placeholder for fans waiting on

the next, inevitable Nine Inch Nails

album. —Andy Downing

April 2013 59

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