Review Summary: "You won't find the answers here, not the one's you came looking for."
Readers underestimate the difficulty in describing a Nine Inch Nails album. We’re taking a mystery wrapped in a riddle and penning it to a page. A group that was ruled too obscene for televised performances and mainstream radio waves is somehow expected to be described rationally. While scuffling through my notes, I wondered if any dictionary or thesaurus had phrases close to the Nine Inch Nails. The real question, however, was whether there were any existing words to describe Bad Witch
. Breaking the chain of EP’s through the years, Reznor turns us on our heads with their shortest release to date. Barely making the margin of LP status, Nine Inch Nails opt for a commercial approach to their latest album in hopes of reinvigorating themselves. If one thing’s for certain, Nine Inch Nails know how to keep people guessing. I doubt anyone expected a jazz/industrial mash-up, then again, no one expected ‘Closer’ to be a hit single.
Nine Inch Nails look to find their place in the post-Trump cesspool of angst-ridden acts. Previous Reznor interviews saying the likes of, “You’re seeing the fall of America in real time,” hinted at something similar to With Teeth
. Luckily for us, the Nails take a more aggressive approach to their music. The tone is dark and gritty with grinding synths and foggy atmospheres. ‘Sh*t Mirror’ thumps its way through your ears with a grooving bass and channeled vocals. Many, including myself, found Bad Witch
to be influenced by his recent musical scores. The two instrumental tracks (‘Play the Godd**ned Part,’ and ‘I’m Not From This World’ respectively) carry a certain cinematic aspect. ‘Play’ has a sound similar to the recent Doom
series or even Reznor’s work on Quake
. The eerie atmosphere and machine-like effects give off an otherworldly aesthetic. This is all juxtaposed by the apparent jazz influence Bad Witch
carries. ‘Over and Out’ begins with a jazzy beat that reminds me of A Perfect Circle’s ‘When the Levee Breaks.’ “Time is running out/I don’t know what I’m waiting for,” echoes from a tense Reznor voice as we fade into an oblivious cycle of instruments.
mostly continues with themes of old. Although it treads political territory (mostly in ‘Sh*t Mirror’), the record revolves around humanities weaknesses. Reznor remarked to The Guardian, “We’re just animals that, left to our own devices, will kill each other,” which seems to be the mission statement for ‘Ahead of Ourselves.’ “Created us in his image/Better be proud of his work/That is if he existed (Not so sure anymore)/That is if he existed,” Reznor spouts in a blasphemous tongue questioning God’s work. Witch
acts as closure to the EP’s by ending Reznor’s “longing for truth” and moving onto grander themes. ‘God Break Down the Door’ does a great job tying those loose ends with, “You won't find the answers here” repeating through the song. The lyrics are barren as they usually are in a Nine Inch Nails album. Most are delirious and hidden within the music as it spirals in and out of your brain.
Overall, Bad Witch
is a fine album. There isn’t anything too special going on here aside from the surprise EP break. It’s a short and sweet album that stands on its own two feet. I enjoy the newfound aggression employed throughout. It doesn’t try to imitate Downward Spiral
and play like a sequel to it. Bad Witch
shamelessly beats to its own drum. The record does borrow a bit from Bowie’s Blackstar
, which isn’t surprising considering Reznor’s ties to Ziggy Stardust. It’s a fun little Easter egg to find while listening. My only problem with Bad Witch
is there aren’t any takeaways from the album. It’s an enjoyable listen, but that’s as far as it goes. There aren’t any smash hits I’d see myself riding home about. It mostly does its job closing out the EP trilogy and establishing a newer darker sound. I find the record more creative than Add Violence
, but not as grand or appealing as it should be. That isn’t to downplay the quality of course. It’s not a disappointing release, but not quite as fulfilling. I still recommend it to listeners nonetheless. It’s a gritty intellectual Nails album sure enough to scratch the itch left from its predecessors. If you like the EP’s, you’ll love Bad Witch
. If not, you’ll like the heavy instruments and moody atmosphere. Do yourselves a favor and listen to some Nails.