Among the festivities and all the Christmas cheer that’s inevitably shoved down your throat year after year, Nine Inch Nails coming out with a new album and pissing all over your Greatest Christmas Carols compilation is the most wonderful of miracles.
On December 16th, Trent Reznor announced the release of the 5-track EP Not The Actual Events, “a fairly impenetrable record” written with the extremely talented Atticus Ross, now an official band mate. The duo has previously scored the soundtrack for The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and their collaborative effort has been recognized and awarded. It was only natural for the announcement to send fans in a frenzy, especially in this year full of misery and disappointment.
Not The Actual Events launched on the 23rd of December on all available platforms and I gripped it from the claws of the Internet and gave it a listen.
The EP kicks off with Branches/Bones which immediately delivers on the promise of it being a grimy record, the desperation in Reznor’s screams while the guitar blasts in the background during the chorus is a dissonance that NIN fans are accustomed to. The simple, cut-to-the-chase lyrics are as Reznor-esque as can be: “Feels like I’ve been here before/ Yeah, I don’t know anymore/ And I don’t care anymore.” However, it is interesting to notice a certain opaqueness to the overall story, the meaning is harder to penetrate as Reznor seems to be creating images that no matter how stark , they still seem to be merely puzzle pieces of an unfinished work.
Dear World is a synth beauty that is very reminiscent of Came Back Haunted, now with a calmer Reznor reciting his displacement in society “Yes, everyone seems to be asleep” and spleen “I feel like I have lived so long sometimes/ Run out of things to try to do”.
She’s Gone Away follows, a shift into the theme of dark sexuality that is already a staple for a NIN record. The song feels like a revamped The Fragile tune but corrupted by the deviancy of Reptile, the heavy sexy bass guiding you along Reznor’s telling of his dangerous and toxic lover “You dig in places till your fingers bleed/ Spread the infection, where you spill your seed”.
After the dark sway of She’s Gone Away, a surprisingly bland rock tune introduces The Idea of You, which has the power of completely pulling you out of the mood. It is fair to add that Reznor bursts with energy during the chorus and chooses to end the song in the same note, but the way too ordinary debut has no place on a NIN record that proposes to make everything difficult for the listener.
The EP closes with Burning Bright (Field on Fire) which again brings back memories of The Fragile era but with the rhetoric of the dystopian world of Year Zero. It is the most experimental and interesting tune on the album, a definite highlight and a true example of “leaving the best for last”. Reznor chose well to release it as a single and frighten the world with a tale of despair, plagues and the Apocalypse.
With Not The Actual Events, Reznor wraps up the year and puts a bow on it. A filthy, ragged bow but a bow nonetheless. The EP delivers on its promise of murky NIN goodness with a nice twist of a new found obscurity in storytelling which is only fitting for the sound pounding on your eardrums. It does necessitate repeated listening but something this good should never come easy.
Not The Actual Events available on Itunes, Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon, Google Play and vinyl here.
Photo via WeListenHear.Tumblr
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