There appears to be no stopping Trent Reznor! After going on hiatus in 2009, he returned to his Nine Inch Nails material stronger than ever with 2013’s Hesitation Marks. As of 2016, he recruited Atticus Ross as a full-time band member, with the goal of releasing a trilogy of EPs over the next couple of years. The first of these was Not the Actual Events, followed by Add Violence.
We’ve now reached the end of this “trilogy”, with the release of Bad Witch. However, it has ascended above its initial EP status, and is now classified as a full-on LP. This is partly due to Reznor’s view on EPs feeling “less important” because they “get lost too easily.” He isn’t wrong, and whilst some may raise an eyebrow at the ~30 minute running time, it’s certainly nothing to scoff at. This album is all about quality over quantity, and the 6 tracks produce an interesting and intense listening experience.
The record instantly bursts in with Shit Mirror, an aggressive opener that pulls no punches. It literally hits with a massive wall of Industrial noise, and is unrelenting. Reznor’s vocals are razor-sharp and blend in perfectly with the electronic soundscapes and distortion. It’s quite a chaotic opener, and draws the listener in instantly. Ahead of Ourselves continues the onslaught of visceral delivery, with pulsing deformed electro, backed by a drumbeat that’s very reminiscent of The Perfect Drug. It has an almost hypnotic feel to it, and the thundering blasts of heaviness help to break it into interesting sections. These first two tracks have an almost Grungy nature to them. Play the Goddammed Part has a meaty bass riff, and electronic sounds that are like distant explosions. It all seems like usual Nine Inch Nails at first, until gloomy detuned saxophones are brought into the mix. This comes as a completely unexpected turn, but a very welcome one. It somehow just works, with the melancholic tones leading into an unsettling ambience. Sax is present once again on God Break Down the Door, flawlessly combining with speedy drums and extremely catchy electronic hooks. Quite frankly, I’m dubbing this as a new genre; Industrial Blues. I’d honestly be happy with an album entirely comprised of tracks like this! I’m Not From this World makes very clever use of ambient sounds to create it’s melody. The overall effect is an eerie one, that encapsulates an sombre tone. Album closer, Over and Out uses a skittish rhythm, and is catchy in execution. The layers and soundscapes help to create an atmospheric, haunting feel.
Bad Witch is a really impressive achievement. In a short space of time it’s not only some of Reznor’s most experimental and creative work, it’s also some of his most cohesive. It has a superb blending of styles and instrumentation, yet it remains well-paced. In fact, it spans the entirety of the NIN spectrum; from chaotic brutal Industrial, to the calmer (sometimes creepy) soundscapes of ambience, all whilst venturing into the unknown at unexpected moments. After listening, it’s even more clear why it was freed from the limitations of being amonst a trilogy of EPs, because it stands tall on it’s own merits. This is easily the best and strongest NIN release in a decade, not only refining the already fine-tuned formula, but rejuvenating it.
Final Verdict: A highly experimental album that covers the entire NIN spectrum, and treads new ground at unexpected turns. Don’t let it’s short length fool you, because Bad Witch is the best and strongest NIN material in a decade.
Ahead of Ourselves
Play the Goddammed Part
God Break Down the Door
I’m Not from This World
Over and Out