Review Summary: Night and day coincide.
With Trent Reznor, there’s always an ulterior motive behind his actions, especially when NIN is concerned. To hear that Trent had dropped a new album out of the blue was a mild surprise, but even then, considering the recent predicament we all find ourselves in, it’s not all that shocking when you observe the many other artists currently writing new albums in their own isolation. What really got my attention though was hearing that Trent had released not one but two new records simultaneously, and for absolutely free via the Nine Inch Nails webstore. Upon hearing both chapters back to back, it’s pretty clear why it’s been set out this way. For one, it’s a much more accessible project now, segregating this two-hour-thirty-three-minute epic into two parts; but for another, it makes for a far more interesting listening experience that will resonate more with the individual listener. By that I mean it's clearly night and day in terms of its tonal shades: one is bright, soothing and hopeful, the other is dark, disturbing and despondent – yet both stand intertwined, siblings with fundamental similarities.
There is no detailed artwork, just the song titles as guidance to creating your own plot. Ghosts V: Together
features a calmer, at times relaxed sound, yet you can feel tension slowly mounting around you. Reznor and Ross don’t allow you to completely let your guard down. Most of the album’s cuts go through several motions, ranging from lovely touches of piano and marimba leads to droning or even harrowing synthesizer pads. The overall atmosphere can be described as an uneasy mellowness for example. Something boils underneath, but for now you don’t want to be aware of that. You try to tend to yourself, as optimism is all you have now and don’t want to lose it. This subtleness Nine Inch Nails developed during the past decade works wonders for them. They knew how easy a song’s mood can be switched with just one chord or brooding sound (see ‘Apart’, ‘Hope We Can Again’ or ‘Together’) and those have become key moments here. At the same time, placing these two chapters side by side, makes you perceive these vibe changes easier. You see things will get worse, yet you don’t know exactly when, so you attentively keep listening to the music. – Raul Stanciu
If Ghost V: Together
was a Lynchian cinematic score, it would reside in The Elephant Man
or The Straight Story
; not without its murmurings of mild peril, but largely acting out with a light-hearted comportment. As such, if Ghost V: Together
is going to be the relaxing introductory, you can bet your ass Ghosts VI: Locusts
is the all-out Lynchian nightmare – something I was constantly reminded of whilst listening to it. This is the longest of the two parts – clocking itself in at nearly ninety-minutes – and in that time, you’ll be floating around helplessly in a black vacuum of dejected, sorrow-infused piano keys, trill, rustic electronics, and the rare presence of programmed drum beats (ala “Turn This Off Please”). It’s essentially an endurance test that has an incredible conclusion at the end of it, if you’re daring to brace the repetitive loops and unsettlingly nuanced mood changes. Where Ghost V: Together
sounds more organic and acoustic in comparison, things sound and feel more industrialised here; adding to the authenticity of this dystopian hellhole. When I listen to this album, I feel like Thom Yorke’s Suspiria
soundtrack played a pertinent role in developing these ideas here. There’s a haunted, ugly beauty being displayed, and it makes things all the more intriguing and esoteric because of it.
As a whole, I think I prefer Ghosts VI: Locusts
, simply because of how effective its deranged sound palate is. Both albums work their way up to a crescendo, but the last thirty minutes or so of Ghosts VI: Locusts
feels that little bit more cathartic and rewarding by the end of it. What starts off as simple, sombre piano notes eventually swells up to synthetic ambiences, and the rise of a mechanically unsettling apex for the album’s closing quarter. Both of these albums require time set aside to really benefit from their journeys, but it’s time well spent if you’re willing to accept it. If you’re more of a jump scare kind of guy/gal, this probably isn’t for you, but if you like a psychological creepfest, something that gets under your skin, Ghosts VI: Locusts
is the way to go. Equally, if you like beautifully crafted, minimalistic ambiences that sit on the ethereal/spiritual spectrum with an unsettling undercurrent, Ghost V: Together
will feed that insatiable hunger as well. Either way, this much content for absolutely nothing is a winning scenario for music lovers, and when you consider what a sterling job both of these albums do, it makes everything taste that much sweeter.
SPECIAL EDITION: N/A
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