Review Summary: A promising, yet inconsistent release with more ups and downs than a rollercoaster.
Listening to Reznor’s first “Hey douchebags, this isn’t NIN” project, it’s hard to not notice the NIN similarities-but the lack of them as well. This little six-track EP has enough standards to live up to; Trent’s track record being nearly perfect with the exception of the 2005 release that NIN fans tend to look over. Any way you look at it, however, this is an extremely patchy release that just seems a bit sloppy and under-thought. Maybe Trent got too excited at the idea of working with his wife and threw an EP out for the hell of it, but the album is far too inconsistent to stand up to Trent’s normal standards.
The name, “How to Destroy Angels”, borrowed from Coil (a long time Reznor collaborator and inspiration), obviously is an indicator this is going to be old-school industrial sound. It is-to a point. A lot of the album is reminiscent to Throbbing Gristle’s comeback album, and some is even a bit similar to older, dance inspired industrial bands (Front Line Assembly, etc.). But just because you obviously have taken influence from Nitzer Ebb doesn’t make it any less apparent that a song is a funky, danceable bastard child to Discipline and Only. The song I’m referring to is Fur Lined. Mariqueen’s vocals hide under layers of distortion, and slap bass; harking back to the 1980s industrial scene, but the song is enough to make any NIN fan scratch their head. The crunchy noise at the end is quite awesome, but it’s not enough to make the song passable. It’s like a bad rave dance party soundtrack.
The rest of the album is better, if a bit inconsistent. The Space in Between, as dark and haunting as ever, is just downright disturbing. The drone beat in the back is as unsettling as ever-but Mariqueen’s soaring chorus vocals and the awkwardly haunting instrumentation is quite excellent. Parasite is absolute sonic annihilation-taking the abrasion of The Great Destroyer to greater levels. This one also is quite dark, as Trent and Mariqueen harmonize their voices into one haunting hum, making the feeling quite uncomfortable. Noise drives the track, bringing up the Throbbing Gristle impressions-but the repetitive dance beat is closest to Front Line Assembly. There’s nothing really memorable about it though-just as if Trent, Atticus, and Mariqueen decided to **** around with their synthesizers. Then you have BBB, which is just a lot like a typical drone NIN chant…and it’s also an oddly sexual. It's also a ridiculously funky song. However-the song’s potential excellence is pretty much thrown to the wayside by the chorus line of “Listen to the sound of my big black boots”. What the hell is all that you need to ask yourself. Scary thoughts of a 50 year old Bono singing “Sexy boots” comes to mind, and needs to go away.
However, in typical Trent fashion, the end is always the best. The Believers is like a jungle-Ghosts-song-with-vocals. It’s one of the best songs he’s ever written. You can nearly hear the wind blowing in your ears-and the glitching electronics go well with the old-school sounds thrown throughout the song. The end may be one of the best Trent noise solos, and Mariqueen’s vocals are spot on…as disturbing and unnerving as ever. A Drowning ends the album rather epically-even if it’s a bit timid. The splotches of noise, combined with the piano is like The Fragile-era Trent coming back to life-and Mariqueen’s whimsical chants at the end just eschew beauty. The ending is beautiful and epic-like only Trent can do. The noise ends, gives way to piano.
The lyrics are pretty average, Mariqueen’s voice is normally a bit too hidden, but for a man who has been hidden under the NIN moniker for years, this is, at the very least, promising for the future. When he dares to break out and experiment a bit, his excellence shines, such as in The Space in Between or The Believers. But when he falls back into the tried-and-true methods of pseudo-industrial cheese 80s pop, he severely fails. Look, Trent we know you grew up on A-ha and bands you played keyboard for called Slam Bamboo. But, dude, adding a glitching soundscape at the end doesn’t hide the fact that you made a horrific rave dance party song. Not to mention the EP has no identity. Is this pop music" No. Is this hard industrial" No. Is this noise" No. Is this dark ambient music" No. You really have no idea. It’s all of them slammed into 30 minutes.
Anyway, if you like glitchy NIN music, old-school industrial, and haunting vocals, you’ll probably enjoy it. Lyrics are average, nearly ruin a few songs, the songs are inconsistent, and with the exception of a few, not too memorable. But it's promising, and The Believers is freaking incredible. At the very least, it proves one thing-if Trent and Mariqueen ever have kids, Moog synthesizers will be running through that kid’s veins.