Add Violence by Nine Inch NailsRelease date: July 19, 2017
Label: The Null Corporation
The second entry in a series of three EPs’ announced back in 2016, Add Violence follows up on the premise of Not the Actual Events, a short release that gave audiences a first promising glimpse at a Reznor & Ross collaboration applied to a Nine Inch Nails project. Similarly to its predecessor, Add Violence’s roots lie in the bands’ mid-career releases, albums such a Year Zero, With Teeth and even The Fragile, revamped and expanded with the touch of modernity heard on Hesitation Marks.
The record kicks off with ‘Less Than’ a pumped-up industrial rock anthem, as catchy and as straight-forward of a Nine Inch Nails song as you can possibly get. With a voice showing little to no signs of ageing, Trent delivers his verses in a defiant, contemptuous tone all the while recycling some of his go-to phrases. Whether it’s purposefully referential or not, one can’t help but feel like it’s been said before.
Over the next couple of tracks, the record dives back into the moodier, textured compositions that were last heard on Not the Actual Events, evoking the ambient numbers found on The Fragile. ‘The Lovers’ starts with the sounds of sequenced beats and bleeps and grows gradually denser with the resonances of the sustained piano chords and muted guitar strums. Trent whispers and mumbles his spoken word recitations, occasionally singing a few words out loud but mostly acting as an additional sonic layer to add to the decrepit yet serene sonic landscape. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross demonstrate on the following track their film-scoring expertise, depicting nuanced, ambivalent atmospheres and moods. The whirring drones and orchestrations of ‘This Isn’t the Place’ leave your head spinning, elegantly balancing harmony and a sense of dissonance that tickles feelings of uneasiness.
Picking things up on the penultimate track, ’Not Anymore’ is schizophrenic and violent, intermittently skipping into full-throttled aggression, hitting us with whirlwinds of chaotic wails and blaring walls of sound. Trent’s anxious, deranged voice adds to the unsettling vibe and maintaining an alertness that tries to anticipate the next cacophonous outbreak. As torturous and raw as the track may be, it does end-up feeling a little one-dimensional, as though it were a mere idea that was to be expanded into a song.
‘The Background World’ is a magnificent closing performance and send-off, a somber number with a pummeling beat and sequenced sounds, doubled with waves of ambient resonances that fill the sonic space with a suffocating sense of desolation. The track eventually tails off on an epic, powerful beat that goes on to lock into an imperfect loop, gradually disintegrating into pure granular noise with every reiteration. The process, while brilliant, does go on for an unnecessarily long time, taking up well over 7 minutes of the tracks’ runtime.
Upon hearing the first EP in the series, my senses were left in want of additional substance to give the record a wider context and elaborate its ideas. Add Violence does cater to this demand, yet isn’t quite satiating. Considering the nature of the most novel tracks on Add Violence and Not the Actual Events one may reasonably ask whether the EP format is best-suited to showcase the projects’ textured, immersive compositions in a fulfilling way. Overall, Add Violence as a standalone release sums up to a couple of great tracks, a handful of interesting ideas and a few decent yet redundant formalities, leaving this reviewer yearning for a new album as opposed to reaching for the replay button.