tue 24/09/2019

CD: Nine Inch Nails – Bad Witch | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Nine Inch Nails – Bad Witch

CD: Nine Inch Nails – Bad Witch

Trent Reznor treads old ground in new, sober, boots

A taste of the old NiN

Concluding a trilogy of releases that began with the EPs Not the Actual Events (2016) and Add Violence (2017) – Bad Witch is being called an LP despite its six tracks clocking in at only 30 minutes, a discrepancy that reportedly led an exasperated Trent Reznor to sound out a pernickety fan in an online forum. 

Short and sharp opening track "Shit Mirror", despite lyrics that speak of "new world, new times, mutation", does feel a little like the NIN of old – that familiar industrial groove and shouty vocal combo – but as soon as that’s done and dusted, it’s swiftly followed by "Ahead of Ourselves", which is where things start to get a bit more unsettling. With stuttering, broken vocals against a discordant, skittering background, there’s a lot going on here that continues into nerve-racking next track, the instrumental "Play the Goddamned Part". Saxophones and shuddering drums begin to weave through a spooky, unnerving backdrop, and it’s a difficult listen – getting on for Homeland-theme levels of upsetting jazz in parts. 

There’s more sax, but a return to Reznor’s traditionally breathy, sinister vocals to get us back into more familiar territory with the single "God Break Down the Door", which ends abruptly in a squall of feedback before the atmospheric, brooding "I’m Not From this World" and Blackstar-era Bowie-echoing vocals of the epic "Over and Out" bring everything to a magnificently moody close.  

"I’m becoming something new," snarls Reznor in "Shit Mirror". "It’s getting hard to recognise". That’s certainly true of parts of Bad Witch, but there’s also enough familiarity here. Just don’t argue about its format online…

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