Underneath all the anger and bile, Trent Reznor has been a giving guy the last few years. He released a deluxe edition of his experimental album Ghosts I-IV for a few lucky fans, then straight up gave away his more traditional follow-up, The Slip. When he retired his group Nine Inch Nails from live shows with a stadium tour, he brought the band back for a smaller, more intimate farewell, and then sold seemingly every piece of gear on eBay. While his last few releases have been hit or miss, you can’t deny that T-Rez has been kind to his fans.
With NIN on hiatus, Reznor is keeping busy with How To Destroy Angels, featuring his wife Mariqueen (ex-West Indian Girl) and regular NIN contributor Atticus Ross. Despite the name change, the band’s debut EP feels very much like an extension of NIN. While physical copies are expected later on, anyone can download the release for free, just like with The Slip. Musically, the only real distinction between this and NIN circa With Teeth is Mariqueen’s voice. Mrs. Reznor handles main mic duties, with
Mariqueen’s voice is excellent, for sure, but it’s hard not to view this as another NIN release. I love Trent Reznor, but the guy does recycle music sometimes, as “Fur Lined” indicates. It’s probably the catchiest track on the EP, and with good reason – it combines the drum sound and a similar beat from “Only” with the urgency (and some of the vocal phrasing) of “The Hand That Feeds.” It’s good, but a little pandering.
“Fur Lined” doesn’t represent the collection tonally, though. Most of the songs have a more ominous vibe, as felt on opener “The Space In Between,” which builds and builds upon a sense of dread. “Parasite” boasts a hammering beat. “BBB” could have been on Year Zero thanks to its use of dance beats coupled with otherworldly noise. “The Believers” continues the blips-n-beats route, while “A Drowning” is just really, really long. Some would say “expansive,” and it’s a solid closing track, but it’s also the least interesting song of the bunch. Seven minutes and nothing happens.
How To Destroy Angels isn’t a clean stylistic break, but then again, Trent Reznor didn’t necessarily need one. He knows what he’s doing, and I suspect I like these songs more thanks to Mariqueen’s rich vocals. In that sense, the EP is a nice marriage of their talents.