It says a lot about Trent Reznor, that he can tease his audience with the promise of new Nine Inch Nails music a year in advance and have people not lose interest, even when he then decides to surprise release that music 2 days before Christmas.
But in a world of instant gratification, Trent is one of those musicians who believes in delivering the very best no matter how long that may take. So here we are 3 years after the band’s last full-length album ‘Hesitation Marks’ and a year and a bit after the initial tease, we now have a new e.p of 5 brand new Nine Inch Nails songs entitled ‘Not the Actual Events’.
Ideally, I think I can speak for everyone when I say we all would have preferred a full-length release, but new Nine Inch Nails is new Nine Inch Nails, so I’m not going to complain too much. So what of the actual music itself? well, this is vintage NIN through and through, like all their best music it is also multi-layered and draws the listener in from the get go. Starting with the shortest track on here proves to be a wise move as it lends an immediacy to proceedings. It has an almost garage rock feel to it with lots of fuzzy guitars, and wailing vocals from Mr Reznor, it sounds almost like it wouldn’t be out of place on their Year Zero opus. The track ends almost as quickly as it begins, clocking in at just under 2 minutes which again helps with the urgency and the sense of unease they are trying to create.
Dear world follows and has a more haunting synthetic quality to it, with loops of bleeps, and a ghostly undercurrent. It’s a more sparse but no less effective track, with mumbled almost whispered vocals creating a more desperate almost apocalyptic vibe of a man alone in his own isolation, a trope that has worked very well in the past.
She’s Gone Away sounds just like the worst mental breakdown at the edge of the world you could possibly imagine. Doomy, grinding and just plain bleak, this is probably the darkest song on the album and I think the one that will likely get under people’s skins the most, but that is the sign of great art, and that is its ability to get under the skin and no one does it better than Trent and Co.
The idea of you is the quintessential NIN track that sounds like it could stand toe to toe with the band’s best singles, it is designed to get feet moving and feels like the most accessible track here, which is saying a lot due to how dark this gets and how quickly it does so. The final track Burning Bright (Fields on Fire) sounds like a sermon you would hear at Jonestown, there is the sound of a live crowd in the background over a pounding beat with Trent’s vocals sounding as though they are coming out of a megaphone as if addressing a cult-like crowd before him, which may in itself be a metaphor for the relationship he has with his fans. Either way, it’s an effective way to close things out and will leave you pondering what you have just listened to and will have you wanting to hear it all over again.
A few things become clear after listening to this new collection of songs is that firstly the pairing of Trent Reznor and now Full-time member Atticus Ross is absolute gold and it feels like especially here that there are no signs of them losing their creative spark anytime soon. This is a worthy addition to the NIN legacy, it seems their time together working not only on NIN but on several film scores together has paid dividends and continues to bare rather delicious fruit. This is a confident statement of intent that not only shows just how vital NIN can still be but also just how there is still nothing out there that sounds anything like them.
My own and only complaint with this release is that it is an e.p and not a full-length album because sadly it does feel a little too short and leaves you wanting a lot-lot more, but I guess that is also a plus in that the music is so good that it leaves you with that feeling when you are done with it. This is prime NIN at a time when we desperately need them the most, one can only hope that there is a lot more to come and hopefully it will come sooner rather than later.