In the three years between Hesitation Marks, the previous release from Nine Inch Nails, and the their latest EP, Not the Actual Events, Trent Reznor and creative partner, Atticus Ross have focused all of their attention on producing a multiple of impressive, and award winning film scores. These compositions, much like the 2008 instrumental album, Ghosts I-IV, have been atmospheric, enigmatic and at times jarring bodies of work that have helped to tell many interesting stories.
As if to completely rebel against his past stint in film composition, Reznor and now-official Nine Inch Nails band member, Atticus Ross release Not the Actual Events, an EP that dares to echo those 1990’s sounds that made Nine Inch Nails the band they are today. Described by Reznor as “a fairly impenetrable record we needed to make,” the EP lives up to the description the singer gave us. While it is riddled with well-known rock stars (Dave Grohl, Dave Navarro and Marigueen Maandig), it doesn’t boast pop-sensibilities like “Head Like a Hole,” or more recently, “Came Back Haunted.” It’s a deviation from the more accessible rock music of With Teeth, but is less focused on atmospheric interpretation like on Ghosts. For true Nine Inch Nails fans, it may even be reminiscent to 1999’s The Fragile.
In using this comparison, it is important to note that if Not the Actual Events is the closest thing we have heard since the 1999 LP, it is only just a snippet of it. After all, The Fragile was a two-disc, dark-themed epic that mixed emotive nihilism with industrial interludes. And while it is hard to compare an artist in his prime, creating a body of work that was reflective of his current state of depression, and drug addiction, with an older version of himself, that is, perhaps more sophisticated, and more outward looking, it seems quite clear that the industrialized roots that were firmly planted in the 1990’s, have not turned to mere weeds.
The EP opens with “Branches/Bones,” a short song that seems to act as an intro to the other four tracks. It’s driven by a fast past distorted bass-line, and an in-your face chorus with Reznor yelling “I don’t care anymore.” “Dear World,” is equally disheartening, painting a dark landscape of the world through the Reznor’s eyes. With lyrics like, “Yes, everyone seems to be asleep,” we are confronted with political ideologies that we began to hear from the singer in his Year Zero album. Always a blunt advocate for bearing his real and at times visceral emotions, Reznor is true to his feelings on the disposition of the world’s population.
“She’s Gone Away,” delves back into the bass-line driven industrial emotions of The Fragile, but hits at the intricate use of synth Reznor and Ross have adopted for Ghosts, and Hesitation Marks. “The Idea of You,” is another distorted track that breaks the silence on Reznor’s Nine Inch Nails hiatus. It’s a metal song, but like everything that derives from the Reznor/Ross workshop, the undertones of the song are melodic piano soundscapes. You’ll have to listen closely once Ghrol’s drum kit begins to get a real beating, and Reznor isn’t serving up his upmost aggressiveness, but the symphonic production is in there. In a way, it moulds together the old Nine Inch Nails with the new.
“Burning Bight (Field of Fire)” is the most interesting track on the EP. It’s also heavily distorted, and is a good reflection of songs like “Pilgrimage,” and “The Day The World Went Away,” if Reznor were to add some vocals, blasted through a megaphone. The chorus alternatively, lends some catharsis to the noise. If only for a few bars, Reznor asks us to “break through the surface and breathe”. It’s a moment we must take to do so amongst all the chaos. And perhaps a moment Reznor has attempted to build as a metaphor for his ideologies of the current global climate. Latch onto that one breath of air while you can.
It’s the kind of Nine Inch world we’re used to being caught in, the kind us die-hards revel in. The EP provides a good reminder of our favourite Nine Inch Nails albums. Whether that be Broken, The Fragile or Hesitation Marks, they seem to all be in there. Is it fair to say that this is a preface to a heavier full-length album that we’re all hoping for this year, or is it just a creative outlet for industrial music’s favourite composer? Be sure to stayed tuned …
and in the mean time, stream Not The Actual Events now, on the service provider of your choice.
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