Completing the three EP/album cycle which began with 2016’s ‘Not The Actual Events’, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross return with their most daring and perhaps polarising contribution to the set.
While the aforementioned first release was missing some of the focus fans have come to expect from a NIN long play, last year’s ‘Add Violence’ saw the duo on strong footing, its five tracks a perfect culmination of the veteran outfits varied journeys into ambient angst. Opting to scrap the rigid concept they’d been following, ‘Bad Witch’ sees Reznor look both backwards and forwards to create a heady mix of anxious riffs, ravey beats and... jazz.
Sharing much DNA with Bowie’s ‘Blackstar’ and even ‘Earthling’, NIN’s ninth album is an erratic beast, overdriven stompers like the opening ‘Shit Mirror’ followed by a dark slab of drum 'n' bass titled ‘Ahead Of Ourselves’. It’s jarring, but that’s the whole point.
Elsewhere the instrumental ‘Play The Goddamn Part’ marries squawking sax work with nervous percussion while ‘God Break Down The Door’ debuts Reznor’s new crooning vocal. While never quite holding together as a set, NIN continues to admirably cover new ground while doing what they do best, namely reflecting humanity’s worst impulses.
Words: Sam Walker-Smart
Dig it? Dig deeper: David Bowie, Brian Eno, Einstürzende Neubauten
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