Not The Actual Events - Nine Inch Nails
By Benjamin Irons
It was only last week that the industrial rock outfit Nine Inch Nails announced they had music in the pipeline ready for the end of the year:
“Oh yeah, it’s December isn’t it? Just wait and see what happens” - Reznor told Rolling Stone.
Well, the promise of the release of this new five-track EP has now become a reality, as Reznor & Co. dropped Not The Actual Events late last evening. Film-score composer and old-time collaborator (and now official NIN band member) Atticus Ross worked with the brains behind the band, Trent Reznor, to compile new material and challenge rock conventions in much the same way the band did on the acclaimed titles Downward Spiral and Fragile 20 years prior.
Art direction by John Crawford, additional designs by Corey Holmes
Short but sweet, this five-song recital touches on themes of depression, melancholy, and demoralisation, but Reznor already made listeners aware of the bleaker subject matter that embellishes the track listing, quoting: “It’s an unfriendly, fairly impenetrable record that we needed to make”. Straight off the bat, we get a jagged, sawtooth decoration of cutting synth and warped vocals on opener “Branches / Bones”. “Dear World” then channels a carbon copy, Aphex Twin base, pulsing rhythms and intimate murmurs that transport you to a kind of electronic amusement park.
Reznor and Ross then paint a kind of holocaustic landscape on the chapped 6-minute interlude, “She’s Gone Away”; Reznor’s sinister groans speak like the devil in black clouds, while the loud banging of the drums add thunder and lightning to an unshakably stormy atmosphere. Then, with true conviction, dizzying white noise plummets you into that mechanical rock that we’ve long associated with NIN within their early 90’s discography on the follower, “The Idea Of You”. With a guest feature from Dave Grohl on drums, we get thrown from dreary verses and gothic whispering to an explosion of thrash-metal arrangements in the chorus that make for an engaging contrast from the former.
“Burning Bright (Field On Fire)” then culminates the record in a true NIN fashion of punch-drunk textures that cloud over you with an almighty sense of impending doom. It’s overbearing at times, but, generally, it’s a necessary sludge-fest of distortion that is in keeping with the records atmospheric soundscape. While Not The Actual Events won’t be a landmark effort in their more acclaimed projects of years gone by, it’s certainly nice to see that they’re still keeping active in the music business, even if it is only 20 minutes long.