A Nine Inch Nails album, partially inspired by David Bowie. As if 2018 couldn’t get any weirder, that happened. Last week, NIN released a 30-minute long, six-track record entitled Bad Witch, which has stylings that are Blackstar-esque, but without the tumultuous mood swings that the band usually dive right into. Their well-known tendencies towards aggression and hard rock are still evident — don’t get me wrong — but it’s concise and melodic. Multiple layers of sound and passion intertwine to form the most put together Nine Inch Nails album to date.
“Play the Goddamned Part” and “I’m Not From This World” are instrumental tracks full of mystery that touch the edge of a creepy, horror movie soundtrack, but never fully cross that line. “Play the Goddamned Part” is an interesting track that falls into a very niche, but very good, genre: industrial jazz. With the flawless saxophone and thumping drums holding the song together, the question of where the lyrics may be doesn’t even get asked. The purely instrumental song draws you in and holds you there, painting image after image in your head without an inkling of upcoming vocals. The song is stunning as it is, texture and tone captivating each listener with daunting fear and ease.
The lead, and only, single for the album also has a new kind of energy to it. “God Break Down the Door” is practically psychedelic with its production and arrangement — something that Trent Reznor worked very hard on. Each of the six songs all hold a sense of professionalism and experimentation that earlier NIN songs and albums never did, making it stand out in the best way possible. Reznor and Atticus Ross made sure this album touched upon sounds and feelings that their usual industrial rock sound failed to. Those elements and that change can be clearly found on this lead single.
The creepy, fearful factor is back on “God Break Down the Door,” but this time, with vocals. Reznor’s voice is echoing and low, almost hidden by the alien spaceship sounds that are mingled within the screeching notes from the electric guitar. Critics have described the sound as “trip-hop,” which I think is a perfect description, although one I wouldn’t have been able to put my finger on. The whole record seems to be a musician acid trip, with sounds, styles, and feelings that are too unique to even name. The experimentation that went into this album is far from subtle, as it is evident at every turn, and easy to fall in love with. The entrancing vocals and saxophone continue to make their appearance and make each track soar higher than before.
Decades later, Nine Inch Nails are still coming out with their heads held high. Their aggression, restlessness, and passion are found in every one of their albums, but each other has their own level of originality. Bad Witch, in my opinion, is their most original yet. It’s dark, it’s angsty, it’s eerie. There may only be six songs, but it’s short and sweet. Well, maybe sweet isn’t the right word — but it’s short and it’s really great. The imagery is stunning and imaginative, put forth by instrumentals that are outstanding and not at all lost in the background.