July 2, 2018 Nine Inch Nails – Bad Witch (Album Review)
Infinitely famous Industrial/Alternative Rock band Nine Inch Nails (NIN) returned to the forefront of the music scene once more with the release of their new studio album, Bad Witch, on June 22, 2018, through Mastermind Trent Reznor’s label, The Null Corporation. Releasing the album right after announcing their tour dates for 2018 that begin in September, and like the album, NIN took an approach considered unusual in this day and age; live ticket sellers only for these shows with none officially sold by the band online. Always keeping it interesting and fresh, NIN constantly finds the means to stay ahead of the curve and remain innovative after 30 years in the industry within genre confines.
Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, NIN came to be in the late ’80s and is composed primarily of Lead Vocalist/Guitarist Trent Reznor and Keyboardist Atticus Ross. Their ninth studio album, Bad Witch, is the first official LP release since 2013’s Hesitation Marks. Anticipated by longtime followers, it was met with generally favorable feedback and some criticisms. That in mind, Bad Witch is on the fringe while incorporating a few different elements to its sound. And even though it is only 6 tracks and about 30 minutes long, Bad Witch is billed as a full-length album, earning it some skepticism and mistrust initially. Seeming to break up the uniformity of previous NIN albums, what is Bad Witch really all about?
Opening track, “Shit Mirror,” comes in strong with a hard Neo-Goth feel that quickly evolves into a Rock sound with heavy distortion. It focuses on a person in an evolving world who, it seems, has become numbed and okay to keeping up with the times, despite what the morals may be of the society. The song’s chorus really solidifies its theme while Reznor repeats in a chant “New World, new times, mutation, feels all right.” Thereafter “Ahead of Ourselves” has the typical headbanger sound that could have anyone in the pit in 5 seconds or less. “Did you ever get that feeling? Man, I can’t seem to shake it. Not quite as clever as we think we are, knuckle dragging animal, when we could have done anything, we wound up building this. We deserve, with illusions of enlightenment, with our snouts in the dirt, with our snouts in the dirt,” repeats Reznor with vigor throughout to the distorted crescendo of the song.
Then offering a completely different approach, “Play the Goddamned Part” not only slows down the pace, but has a heavy saxophone that renders comparison of Bad Witch to the late Bowie’s 2016 album Black Star. Led in by the ominous saxophones, the whole piece is an instrumental and seems intricately structured to reflect the title of it. Then there is “God Break Down The Door,” a song which is soothing, hair-raising, and somehow classic NIN all at once. “God break down the door, there are no answers here,” croons Reznor in a disturbingly prayer like melody. “Remove the pain and push it back in,” says Reznor as he pleads for what seems to be divine intervention that never comes. Eerie and musically full, it is perhaps the most haunting and impactful song on the album.
Letting the music convey the message, “I’m Not From This World” is another all instrumental piece that is eerie and chilling, truly giving the feeling of an alien presence; it is a cut that would fit perfectly at home in a Horror movie, and it is not recommended to listen to it in the dark. Which leads to the final track, “Over and Out,” a regression into a very ’80s fashioned synth style. Experimental and with twining elements of Jazz and Alternative Rock, Reznor’s vocals seem heavily inspired by the aforementioned David Bowie. “Time is running out” mourns Reznor to the thickly textured sound of bass, keyboard, and drum track leading itself to the feeling of a deep winter, making for an interesting conclusion to the album.
Overall, Bad Witch seamlessly incorporates some unseen styles and explores NIN’s broad talents. Breaking their mold in an unexpectedly intriguing way, it is one part concept album and one part writhing, living idea of the future. That is why CrypticRock gives Bad Witch 4 out of 5 stars.