Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks

Columbia Records

Review by Suzi H

Nine Inch Nails, heavyweights of industrial rock, responsible for the dance floor filling Closer  and masterminded by the almighty Trent Reznor have been very, very quiet since 2009.  Whilst Trent has been involved in plenty of other projects there’s been nothing on the NiN front, and fans could be forgiven for thinking they’d never see a new release.

Well, in 2013 Trent surprised everyone by announcing that he’d spent a year working on a new album and it’s release was imminent.  Hesitation Marks is the first new NiN album since 2008 and it marks a somewhat triumphant return for industrial music’s most outspoken son.

If you’re expecting the angry heaviness of earlier albums like The Downward Spiral, then you might want to look elsewhere.  Kicking off with the eerie introduction, The Eater of Dreams, it’s clear that Trent has moved on from his Head like a Hole days and into a new and creepifying era.

Copy of A re-emphasizes the new eerie sound – it’s got a tinny bass beat, with some familiar synth tunes and that glorious  vocal that NiN fans will be overjoyed to hear.  In terms of a tempo, it’s a perfect dance floor filler and I’m fairly certain my local Industrial night will be playing it next month.

From there, we move into Came Back Haunted- more synths, more gritty vocals and again it’s a track that’s bound to appeal.  Move into the chorus and you get one of those swooping NiN ‘rants’ – it’s angry and slightly tortured, but laid over a beat that’s just begging for a very good sound system and a dark room.  Came Back Haunted is very reminiscent of Hand that Feeds, but sounds fresh enough that you don’t feel it’s just a replica.

Find My Way is a slower track with some haunting lyrics.  In a really odd way it reminds me of Mike Oldfield‘s Tubular Bells 3. It’s almost a ballad, but I’m not actually sure that NiN know how to do ballads, so we’ll leave it as being ‘almost’.  All Time Low has a very twangy sound to it, and is a sensuous, writhing beast of a track that just slips inside your head and won’t leave.  It’s followed by Disappointed which is not disappointing but is a strange amalgamation of percussion, overlaid with an intriguing vocal and then joined by some very angry guitars.

Everything is a track with a curiously cheerful beginning reminiscent of The Cure, and a vocal track that reminds me an awful lot of Ginger’s latest project Hey!Hello!.  It’s fantastic, but not a normal offering from NiN and I think will be a dividing point for fans. Satellite has an almost hip-hop sound to it – it’s not a bad song, but it was so unexpected that I actually recoiled when I heard it the first time.  It made me think of Justin Timberlake and that’s just deeply unpleasant!  I think it’s the only track I came close to disliking, which on an album of 14 tracks isn’t bad.

Various Methods of Escape rescues us from the terrible hip-hopness and the album moves on in a more industrial vein with Running which is a more typically NiN track whilst sounding completely new and a little surprising at the same time.  I Would For You  is a dark beated, slinking beast of a song that just asks you to take a voyage of discovery and throw away the world.  In Two  brings us some electronic vocal sampling and is interesting  to listen to – again it’s inviting the listener to lock themselves in a dark room and dance.

The album closes with While I’m Still Here and Black Noise. These are unusual tracks and whilst I enjoyed them they really solidified for me the bizzare and haunting nature of the whole album.  Listening to Hesitation Marks is like walking through your childhood home, twenty years after you left it and finding it’s been re-decorated.  Everything is familiar and you know where you are, but at the same time it’s all ever so different and occasionally somewhat jarring.

Throughout listening to this album I found it really hard to describe the tracks and the feel of the music – if you’re already a NiN fan you’re likely to be pleased by it.  It’s an album you can get lost in, and it’s got a successfully experimental sound and feel to it.  It’s gloriously produced.  If you don’t already like NiN I’m not sure it’s going to appeal at all really.  I loved it, but I’ve been a far of NiN since I first hit the dance floor at my very first industrial night way back in the nineties.  I’d be interested to hear how other fans have reacted.

Rating: ***/5

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