How to Destroy Angels [EP] – CD Review

Review: Ben Hosking

  It didn’t take Trent Reznor long to begin making music again after shutting the doors on Nine Inch Nails last year. In fact, news was already surfacing about his new project around the time of his marriage to Mariqueen Maandig in October of 2009. The newlyweds didn’t just join in holy matrimony – they joined in musical harmony as well, forming How to Destroy Angels (HTDA), together with programmer/producer Atticus Ross (Korn/NIN/Coheed and Cambria).

Trent is no stranger to forward-thinking when it comes to the release and promotion of his music. 2005’s ‘With Teeth’ was streamed on NIN’s

MySpace page before its release and 2007’s ‘Year Zero’ saw Reznor creating elaborate ‘alternate reality’ games that fell in line with the concept of the album and leaked several tracks into the world prior to the album’s release. ‘Ghosts I-IV’ and NIN’s final album ‘The Slip’ were both offered as free downloads on the band’s website as well as part of deluxe physical limited-edition packages with phenomenal success.

So it was with ‘How to Destroy Angels’ – the eponymous debut EP. First released on the group’s website as a free download, it is also available in a lossless HD format for the measly sum of US$3. Reznor’s success with taking such seemingly backward steps no doubt stems from his disputes with his previous record labels with quotes like, “[as] the climate grows more and more desperate for record labels, their answer to their mostly self-inflicted wounds seems to be to screw the consumer over even more“.

Comprising six tracks, HTDA create a sound that will not be completely alien to existing NIN fans – at least musically. While Maandig handles all the primary vocals, it has Reznor’s trademark all over it.

The largely electronic-sounding tracks are imposing, moody, slow-to-mid-tempo journeys that conjure a definite dark mood. The darkness is personified in the video that accompanies opening track ‘The Space Between’; depicting the murder scene of the newlyweds in their hotel room as it bursts into flames. There’s plenty of Trent’s signature distorted beats, digital noise and almost undiscernible guitar abrasion that miraculously meld with the smooth bass lines – such as in ‘Parasites’.

Maandig’s vocals never rise beyond the fragile; often little more than a whisper. While it doesn’t do anything to promote her as a singer, the soft approach does suit the music – which doesn’t carry much of a dynamic as far as the traditional verse/chorus/verse/chorus crescendo is concerned.

Certainly, that’s not to say that ‘How to Destroy Angels’ isn’t a dynamic and interesting listen – far from it. If anything, its repetition and moderate tempo creates more of a hypnotic experience that sucks you in while your head spins with the imagery tracks like ‘BBB’ and ‘The Believers’ create.

HTDA end their debut short-play with the beautiful ‘A Drowning’ that utilises a soft static rhythm, breathy vocal and tense syncopated bass line. It transports you under the water’s surface as the pretty young protagonist takes her last gasp before sinking to the bottom.

A deliciously dark listening experience from the dark one himself; bringing his bride along for the trip – ‘How to Destroy Angels’ is available online and from all the usual retail outlets now.

HowHow to Destroy Angels – EP – How to Destroy Angels

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Vintage Nine Inch Nails Poster
from Jan 8, 1995

More Nine Inch Nails memorabilia is available from Wolfgangs Vault