New Nine Inch Nails Album is Smooth and to the Point

Nine Inch Nails’ new album, Add Violence EP, was released on July 19, 2017. The new album is the latest project of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross and has a more sensual and insinuating mood than previous Nine Inch Nails releases. The band’s choice to release an EP rather than a full-length CD reflects shrinking attention spans and the decline of CD’s as the format of choice for elite musicians. But Nine Inch Nails have adapted, opting for a shorter project and less studio time in favor of more time on the road and working on side projects.

Nine Inch Nail’s new album, though shorter than their previous releases, is strong and direct. Like Add Violence, last year’s Not the Actual Event wastes little time with unnecessary bells and whistles. Though Nine Inch Nails is consistently impactful, their newest album packs an even heftier punch. While the writing on Not the Actual Events felt strained at times, the lyrics on Add Violence run much smoother. The mood of the new album is much more subtly sensual. Nine Inch Nails make the five tracks feel effortless but not insignificant. Both “The Lovers” and “This Isn’t the Place” are unhurried and bubbling, lulling listeners into submission. Aside from these two tracks, the rest of Nine Inch Nails’ newest album stays within the band’s comfort zone, one that features synth and Reznor’s excited vocals.

The best — or, at least, most reassuring — point of Violence is the fact that Reznor and Ross continue to play with Nine Inch Nails’ musical formula. Though small, these little plays are powerful. For example, Reznor employs a reaching falsetto on “This Isn’t the Place,” launching him into a place of vulnerability. He sings, “I thought we had more time/ Carry me home.” These little tweaks also allow Nine Inch Nails to be playful and explorative towards the end of their new EP. The last seven minutes of the closing track, “The Background World,” are an increasingly more convoluted loop of sound. By the end of the track, Nine Inch Nails has transformed into a band whose specialty is scratchy and noisy.

Because the new album is so brief and compact, AddViolence acts almost as a suppressant. In the past, small EPs were thought of as a way for bands to keep their audiences fed before their next big release. Today, EPs act not only as sources of new material but also as a promotional tool. With this new album, Nine Inch Nails is able to play more gigs and festivals.

But, of course, these perks have drawbacks of their own. Since the release of Not the Actual Events in 2016, Nine Inch Nails have recorded music for two films and contributed to the soundtrack of another in addition to touring — to say the least, they’ve been busy. There are moments in this new album where it feels as though Nine Inch Nails is holding itself back. With such a packed schedule, one can’t help but wonder what Nine Inch Nails’ newest album would have been had it had the band’s whole attention.

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