Oct 2017 07

Nine Inch Nails - Add Violence EPNine Inch Nails
Category: Industrial
Album: Add Violence EP
Blurb: Less urgent and more slowly ambient than its predecessor, Nine Inch Nails continues its latest EP trilogy with an entry that once again challenges the audience with a myriad of tonal and stylistic inconsistencies.


Never a band to wallow in predictability or stray from experimenting with the parameters of what is considered popular music, Nine Inch Nails remains a significant, polarizing, and singularly artistic force. After the release of the Not the Actual Events EP in late December of 2016, Trent Reznor had announced that the EP was the beginning part of a trilogy, with Add Violence being revealed as the second entry. Though Not the Actual Events had been touted by Reznor as a “fairly impenetrable” and “unfriendly” record, it proved to be quite the opposite; it possessed moments of sonic discomfort, some plodding tempos, and a greater emphasis on noise and ambience to be sure, but in many regards, it was ultimately a return to the more aggressive and exploratory sounds that had come to define the band in its initial successes of the ‘90s alternative scene. Of course, whether or not it was intended to be a nostalgia trip didn’t help that sense of “too little too late” that the EP evoked, but perhaps the other entries to come in the trilogy would help bring a greater sense of cohesion and purpose.

Add Violence begins simply enough with “Less Than,” its whiplash dance beat recalling the poppier sounds of Pretty Hate Machine, while the pulsating synth arpeggio wavers in and out of pitch to achieve that classic modular analog imperfection that Reznor and partner Atticus Ross revel in. Topped off by shrieks and howls of distorted guitar, the song explodes into an instantly catchy chorus filled with a lyrically whimsical nihilism that places the song on par with “Copy of A.” With the second track, a theme recurs from Not the Actual Events as Reznor whispers “Everyone seems to be sleeping,” which recalls “Dear World;” similarly, the song moves at a somber and almost languid pace of plucking guitars and trickling synths and pianos, the sparsely melodic chorus hinting at an explosion of emotive fervor that never quite breaks free from its restraints. “This Isn’t the Place” continues in this vein with a slowly shuffling beat and electronic bass somehow evocative of “Piggy” or even Ross’ previous work with 12 Rounds, swells of pianos and synthesized and vocalized pads creating tension and melancholy that is accentuated by Reznor’s shaky falsetto. “Not Anymore” then follows with gunshot beats, eerie noises that skate the fine line between organic and electronic, and a bass line so distorted that it threatens to crush your speakers, the chorus erupting into a firestorm of howling guitars, thunderous drums, and disconcerting vocal layers; if stripped of its abrasive volume and distortion, there might be a strangely melodic, almost new wave quality to the track. Finally, “The Background World” enters with a dynamic atmosphere of almost orchestral grandeur, the pulsating bass and irresistible dance beat underscoring waxing and waning waves of electrified effects and vocal layers, Reznor asking “Are you sure this is what you want?” before the song suddenly shifts to a phrase that repeats just a half beat off, making for an unsettling effect of a skipping record. This coda is only made all the more nightmarish by the gradual decaying descent into scathing noise over the course of nearly eight of the song’s 11 minutes and 44 seconds, ending Add Violence on an appropriately audibly violent note.

Placed back-to-back with Not the Actual Events, the Add Violence EP seems to follow along a similarly nonlinear path, full of elements familiar to longtime listeners presented in a manner that eschews logic or unity in favor of a more progressive and abstract experience. This is certainly to be expected as Trent Reznor has made a career of challenging his audience, and while Add Violence may contradictorily lack the same sense of urgency and viciousness that the previous EP did, there is no shortage of replay value as once again Ross and Reznor demonstrate a great proficiency with their production to allow for continued extrapolation of hidden sonic nuance. Nine Inch Nails likely won’t win any new fans with this EP, and even some old fans may be disappointed by its tonal and stylistic inconsistencies. We’ll just have to wait for the final entry in the series to see if there is a grand thematic scheme at play, but on its own, Add Violence is a compelling piece of audio art if nothing else.
Track list:

  1. Less Than
  2. The Lovers
  3. This Isn’t the Place
  4. Not Anymore
  5. The Background World

Nine Inch Nails
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The Null Corporation
Purchase at:
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Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)

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