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Nine Inch Nails - Hesitation Marks CD (album) cover


Nine Inch Nails

Crossover Prog

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4 stars **Review for 2cd Deluxe Edition Halo 28**

 Trent Reznor is no longer Mr. Self Destruct. 

Winding the clock back to 1994 we, as listeners, were sonically assaulted by the massively innovative and powerful album, The Downward Spiral. It was then we witnessed main composer/song writer, Trent Reznor in an ugly place in his life personally and it was greatly reflective in his music. Many emotions like fear, self loathing, pain, pressure and heartbreak gave us a pretty good idea how Mr. Reznor wanted to carry out his vision as an artist. Not mention an overburdening drug and alcohol addiction was a dark catalyst to create such haunting, rough and freakishly unbelievable catchy pieces of music like Eraser, Closer, Reptile, The Downward Spiral and of course Mr. Self Destruct, which in my opinion was a song that really typified how Reznor wanted to be known to others, mostly by how he was to be viewed as an artist. I got the message loud and clear and it chilled every bone in my 13 year-old body at the time. 

Fast forward the clock to the present to what is now an unbelievable year in the Prog music world (2013) and we are graced with Trent Reznor, under the moniker of Nine Inch Nails once again with Hesitation Marks, which marks the 8th full-length studio album with in the NIN tenure. Many people, including myself have been anxiously waiting for 5 years for what Trent Reznor would create next under the NIN project and to what kind of mood he would be in seeing as how Reznor is now presently, a 48 year-old man. 

The Nine Inch Nails team also sees a few line up changes as well from Mr. Reznor. Out are Robin Finck, Charlie Clouser, Chris Vrenna, Josh Freese and Justin Meldal-Johnson. In, are Pino Palladino (Bass) Adrian Belew( Guitars/backing vocals/additional programming) and Alessandro Cortini (Electronic effects/program direction.) Some other session musicians and hired guns by Reznor are brought into the NIN fold as well with Eugene Goreshter (Electronic Effects/Strings) Linsay Buckingham ( Guitar) and Iian Rubin ( Live Drums.) However, despite some line up changes the main core team still exists with Alan Moulder (sound mixing/producer) Atticus Ross (Producer/Sound Arranger) and Rob Sheridian (Art Direction/Photography.)  

Continuing on, and it is interesting to note that Hesitation Marks is an album that is a reflection of Trent Reznor's personality by how he has grown more comfortable in life by excepting who he is as a person and as an artist, since the Downward Spiral days. So, instead of the mostly hard and scary stuff from the Mr. Self Destruct era you'll find that Hesitation Marks is an album of personal growth and maturity from Mr. Reznor himself. More importantly, as a listener and a big fan of NIN, one should not expect anything musically similar or relating to The Downward Spiral. Those days are over. The only thing that is similar to The Downward Spiral album is the cover art done by the very same artist, Russel Mills which was purposely done by Reznor to signify how the spiral has now moved in a more upward, less disturbing nature this time around with the Hesitation Marks album. Personally, Some people will be happy, others won't and some like myself will sort of lie in between and try to digest the new flavor of sounds that Reznor has created since the grinding industrial, slightly gothic and rough electronic sequences of circa  1989 to 1999. 

Listening to Hesitation Marks for the first time I was not blown away at all and I found myself pondering why has NIN under Reznor gone even more commercial/accessible sounding than the pop/ electro dance based album that is 2007's Year-Zero ? I just wasn't sure what to think after that first listen, so like any fan or music appreciator I gave the album a few more spins, and finally by the 4th listen it hit me like a ton of bricks where by I personally felt happy, self reflective and easy going when listening to Hesitation Marks. I realized that was the point, the message and heart of it all ! I could feel the different side of Reznor's personality resonating through his music. NIN has done their job with me and here is why. 

Hesitation Marks carries a creative, wide variety of accessible sounds that will grow on you like you wouldn't believe. Starting off with the joined track The Eater of Dreams/Copy of A, I was greated with a slightly eerie dial tone sounding electronic piece that is reminiscent of a strange form of morse code. The Eater of Dreams is a short little intro that was composed by Alessandro Cortini, and it marks one of his few contributions to the album, but sets the stage nicely for Copy of A, which is a track that is probably Reznor's least sophisticated song lyrically, but the tech house laden song does carry some interesting transitions and has a killer chorus that is incredibly catchy. Very enjoyable song. Next is the infamous single 'Come Back Haunted' which of course is one of the most radio friendly songs on this album. Its a fun song, that is highly danceable and has great electronic loops and rhythms by Cortini, which makes one really can't help but to bust a move or 2 to this electro tech based creature. Skipping to the next song, which is 'Find My Way' is really the most defining moment lyrically and musically for the Hesitation Marks album. 'Find My Way' is a ballad song, that is soft and a heart felt song which is accompanied by Reznor's beautiful classically trained grand piano sound, that will leave you feeling a little bit sober due it's emotional feel. 'Find My Way' is also one of the albums main messages about self acceptance and understanding one's place in life according to Mr. Reznor of course. Next comes 'All Time Low' which for me, and forgive my play on words here, is my all time low point on the album as a whole. 'All Time Low' carries far too much of a commercially based dance song sound, with an out of place guitar performance by ex King Crimson guitarist, Adrian Belew. For me, it just didn't work but the additional electronic effects and percussion by Reznor helped make the song reasonably tolerable for me. 'Disappointed' is the next song and it's quite an interesting piece of music that didn't leave me feeling disappointed. Reznor gets a little more edgy and the song has a darker sound overall complete with interesting, eerie electronic sound effects and string sounding effects done by Eugene Goreshter, which in my opinion makes the track so much more interesting and enjoyable. Moving on to the song,'Everything' really through me for a loop and you'll really hear a different side of Reznor musically here. 'Everything' is a track that is unlike anything NIN have ever done. It carries a funky, shoe Gaze chorus by Reznor and I have to say it didn't really work for me and I found it completely odd, although I do respect the different flavor of sound Reznor was trying to invoke here. The backing vocals by Belew was not a nice touch to my ears either. Sadly, 'Everything' is a real bummer of a track, but not 'satellite' which is my opinion one of the better tracks on the album and it has exceptional sounding distorted guitars by Belew with a classic dance, electronic feel that is very Depeche Mode sounding. The song ends with a crescendo of Choir sounding vocals by Reznor, which is very reminiscent to the classic NIN song 'The Day The World Went Away' that featured choral performances  from the 'Chanting Buddha Boys Choir.' A beautiful touch if you ask me and it would continue in parts of the next gem track on the list, 'Various Methods of Escape.' I adore this song and it has one of the strongest, most Catchy choruses done by NIN, since 'Head Down' off 'The Slip' album. Again, the clever choir sounding chanting background vocals done by Belew and Reznor sounds fantastic. Also, with the use of The Dulcitone from Reznor, which is an electronically mimicking sound of the Dulcimer of course is a creative edition as well, and 'Various Methods of Escape' is yet another track on the album that poignantly states the mood of Mr. Reznor by the way he incites lyrically about keeping the evil, addiction demons at bay by hiding and running from them any chance you get. Sometimes Mr. Self Destruct is not allowed to come out and play, which brings us to 'Running' and I was hoping would be a song about marathons, but of course this is not the case where by 'Running' is another tech-house track, which features an extremely odd sounding instrument called a Wheelharp. The instrument sounds like a screechy, strange combination of a Harpsichord and a Hurdy Gurdy. As aberrant as the Wheelharp may be to me I still feel it worked very well for the 'Running' track and explicitly depicts nicely how to keep your 'demons' at bay from the songs theme point of view. Now, we come to track 11 called 'I Would For You' and this the only song on the album that features live drums instead of the use of an EDM that is all over the Hesitation Marks album. This is done courtesy of Ilan Rubin (yes. It's music producer's Rick Rubin's son.) Also, the guitars and backing vocals done by Reznor and Belew are quite good and soar nicely, but the main chorus of the song by Reznor is quite weak and not very catchy. This is the last weak point on the album for me cause the rest of the tracks 'In Two' and the Joined track 'While I'm Still Here/Black Noise' you could argue strongly that these are the very best tracks on the album. 'In Two' features a ton of interesting transitions of musical tempo while carrying a darker edge overall in sound, and string instruments such as the Violin are provided by Eugene Goreshter once again. Lastly, we come to the grande finale and what I think is the very best work done by NIN on this album with, 'While I'm Still Here/Black Noise.' The song, 'While I'm Still Here' is a very special track because it features something never done by Trent Reznor under NIN label, and that is the use of a Saxaphone! That's right, Reznor at about the 3:45min mark of 'While I'm Still Here' track comes in with a Saxaphone of all instruments, and it's nothing to get overly excited about since the Trent Sax piece is quite short and not very bombastic at all, but nonetheless I was shocked to hear the saxophone on a NIN record. Furthermore, as the Sax piece fades listeners are brought into the very short, ominously dark conclusion of the Hesitation Marks album with 'Black Noise' and having the album end on a darker note one can't help but wonder if Mr. Self Destruct will return again...someday. Anyway you slice it, I felt 'Black Noise' was an awesome end to a very different NIN album overall. 

Moreover, for The Hesitation Marks Deluxe Edition contains a 2nd disc that is a scanty 3 track remix of songs 'Find My Way' 'All Time Low' and 'While I'm Still Here' from other Dj's and music collaborators that Reznor has chosen to work with. The only remix I found interesting or worth mentioning here is the remix for 'Find My Way.' I this version of the song even better than the already fantastic original. It's called the (Oneohtrix Point Never remix) which I have no idea what that means, but it's a very clever remix that is a bit faster than the original and is far more electronic based, and this version of the song eliminates the grand piano sound that was originally done by Reznor but it works very well with darker electronic effects instead. Secondly, the album contains beautifully expanded photographic artwork for each track courtesy of Rob Sheridan. This really adds to the mood and character of the album on a physical level. Of course all of this is housed in a beautiful hard cover case with a soft-suede service, which in my opinion is really cool and very much adds to the quality and presentation of this version of the album. I wouldn't expect anything less from the NIN team and Russell Mills's artwork is absolutely gripping. So lovely on a twisted level in so many ways. 

To conclude, Hesitation Marks I cannot say is a mandatory must have for passionately traditional progressive rock listener, but for the Hardcore Nine Inch Nails fan it definitely is and this is how I've chosen to review this album, which is from a the hardcore  fans perspective like my self. I also must admit, that my main passion and love lies in the harder, darker days of the NIN tenure where albums like 'Pretty Hate Machine' 'The Downward Spiral' 'Further Down The Spiral' and of course the dense and intense 'The Fragile' were the albums that were a big part of my teen years and they hold a very special place with me considering the fact that those albums brought me closure to loving harder and more electronically based music that had a major edge to it, but I understand now the mood and direction Reznor wanted to take with Hesitation Marks and I find that it is a very acceptable and creative output from a man who has found some peace and semblance in his life. Most importantly, the difference engine is still running strong and I just want to thank Trent Reznor and the NIN team for making incredible and unpredictable music for so many years. I still have yet to be massively let down or disappointed with any Trent Reznor NIN project releases and Hesitation Marks is certainly neither, but my youthful child still cries out and yearns for 'Mr. Self Destruct' to come out and play for at least one more time, but that would be a double edged-sword now wouldn't it...I think?


Report this review (#1028912)
Posted Wednesday, September 4, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars

Strictly speaking this is no prog-rock album. Nevertheless, my brief foray into NIN's back catalogue has convinced me of the progressive nature of much of Trent Reznor's output. The latest offering is nothing short of spectacular, with haunting passages, electronic atmospheres and samplings of minimal techno thrown in for good measure. Personal highlights include 'Come Back Haunted', 'Find My Way' and 'I Would For You'. The only weak track on the album is 'Everything', which is (if I can be excused) 3 minutes of dire pop-punk and feels completely at odds with the rest of this dark, industrial album. As with every great experimental album, repeated listens produce greater and greater effects, and here these effects are quite disturbing. The track I've attached, in collaboration with the original powerhouse of the industrial scene Genesis P-Orridge is likely to scare the living daylights out of you, though my frequent daily listens might point towards a bizarre masochistic attachment in me. It is testament to the quality of the track that I'm sufficiently engrossed to overlook a cynical contemplation on Genesis (Breyer) P ? Orridge's latest gender mutation/body modification/amalgamation with wife/husband/collection of dildos.*

*Actually scrap that, it's really odd. If you don't believe me look it up. He even refers to himself as 'we', because he/she also represents his/her dead wife in this world.

Report this review (#1043280)
Posted Tuesday, September 24, 2013 | Review Permalink

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