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Nine Inch Nails - And All That Could Have Been CD (album) cover


Nine Inch Nails


Crossover Prog

4.23 | 28 ratings

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5 stars This is the explosive live album released in 2002, at the height of Nine Inch Nails' popularity. Even though it was released in that year, the performances were from the year 2000. Trent released it as a transitory album between 'The Fragile' and 'With Teeth'. The album is, in reality, a double album, with disc 1 being the concert disc and disc 2 being a studio/live album named 'Still'. The listing in Prog Archives only has the track listing for the live Disc One. I will talk about the second disc later.

The live disc comes from the Fragility 2.0 tour. The tour consisted of a full band even though most of the songs on their original studio versions were recorded by Trent doing almost all of the instruments, mostly computer controlled synths with occasional guests. To turn what was mostly electronics previously to be performed on standard instruments is quite a feat in itself. The live disc is definitely loud, but it makes the sudden dynamic changes when they happen even more effective. The production and mixing is excellent. The audience can be heard between songs, but is mixed way down during the songs, which is great. Even though there is nothing new here, the songs prove how rousing they are in a live environment, and you can hear differences in their sound which makes them fresh, but recognizable at the same time. This has to be, in my opinion, one of the best live albums ever released. The music and the sound is superb, the performances excellent, the music exciting and even the order of the tracks is perfect. You can really feel the excitement of the live concert, and you feel like you are right there. There is a video release that contains all of these tracks, plus several others, but they are in a different order, and I can't say if this affects the overall experience, but my guess is that it is also excellent given the quality of this recording. Trent has said of this tour that he has a hard time watching himself because he was in such rough shape at the time and felt he wasn't giving the best performances during this time. I don't notice any problems with his performances, and if this isn't his best, then I can only imagine how great his best is. As with other NIN albums of this time period, they are not for the easily offended nor the faint of ear. It's not all just a loud wall of sound though, there are plenty of dynamic changes and slower, yet dark, tracks, but the overall feel is loud.

So disc 2 is not included on the above Prog Archives track listing. It can almost be considered a new album, except for the fact that 4 of the tracks are versions of previously released songs in a live, deconstructed setting (again with a full band), and 5 are new-to-this-album, unreleased songs. The new songs are mostly formed from themes that were rejected on the 'One Hour Photo' soundtrack.

This part of the album starts with 'Something I Can Never Have' in it's 'deconstructed' form. This song was originally from the debut album 'Pretty Hate Machine' and was also included on the movie 'Natural Born Killers'. This version is all acoustic with Trent on piano and John Dillon (NIN's ex drummer) on acoustic guitar. This version turns the song into a heartbreaking ballad about loss and depression. It is amazingly beautiful and heartfelt. The lyrics are even that much more powerful in this setting.

The 2nd track is original to this recording. Trent states that this instrumental is a continuation or conclusion of 'La Mer' from 'The Fragile'. It is a mostly sparse and stark instrumental using piano and some percussive instrument that sounds like a combination of marimba and steel drums. It is short, but builds effectively to the end.

Next is the deconstructed version of 'The Fragile' from the album of the same name. This one is very quiet, except for Trent's own emotion through his vocals. The backup consists of electric piano sparingly played which is later joined by bass, which is also followed by a fading in of drums. Tension builds through the bridge of the song, ending with sustained guitar.

'The Becoming' from 'The Downward Spiral' in this instance is very percussive through the first verse, then joined by piano and base with a plucked sound and sparse guitar. Again, most of the dynamics here are in Trent's emotional vocals. This is a very inventive version of the song, and almost better than the original in this version. The tension is very prevalent throughout this version.

'Gone, Still' is the 5th track and is another original. It is also an instrumental, again sparse, but this time with guitar, piano and synths. The guitar and piano play repetitive melodies and the synths provide texture. The title definitely reflects the feeling of the track.

'The Day the World Went Away' comes next in it's new form. It did appear on the live portion of the album on CD 1. This time, it is even more sparse starting out with only guitar. The 2nd verse builds on this by adding a persistent slow beat and plucked/strummed acoustic guitar. Piano also joins in almost giving it a bright sound, but the bright tone gets flattened as the song goes on.

'And All That Could Have Been', the title track of the entire album, is an outtake from 'The Fragile' that was unused before this point. It is a complex song, dark starting out slow and building tension as it continues. The vocals here are from Trent of course, first sounding far away, but suddenly getting louder. The verses are in 7/4, the chorus in 4/4 and the mostly instrumental bridge in 6/8. Dynamics are used quite intelligently in both vocals and instruments. This reminds me of 'Signal to Noise' from Peter Gabriel as far as the structure, feeling and tension building goes, just without the orchestration.

'The Persistence of Loss' is an apt title for this beautiful instrumental. It is based on a repeating motif that starts out quiet and then other instruments start to layer in, including horns. The repeating motif, which lasts 10 meters on each instance, is reflective of the 'persistence' and the sadness/slowness of the piece reflects the loss. The added instruments represent memories.

'Leaving Hope' is another slow paced instrumental driven by piano with tense sound effects, supposedly built from past vocals that have been treated so they sound more like electric current running than they do vocals. This is another pensive yet lovely track. Sustained and treated guitars come in later adding mostly texture and feeling to the track.

This 2nd CD to this album proves Trent's ingenuity and musicianship. His music isn't simply industrial rock or loud noise, you can hear, especially in these more sparse tracks, that he is an amazing composer. You have to listen closer in his louder music, but here, it is more evident. I highly recommend this entire package as an essential album that bears testament to the amazing music of NIN and Trent Reznor. It gives you a chance to hear the power of NIN in concert and also in a more quiet setting, just so you can experience for yourself how amazing this music really is. Like I said, this is one of the best live recordings out there, and the addition of 'Still' solidifies this by making this album that much more of a must have. 5 stars.

TCat | 5/5 |


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