Today, Nine Inch Nails has released a six-track album titled Bad Witch. This release completes a trilogy of projects Trent Reznor began in 2016 with Not The Actual Events and its sequel, 2017's Add Violence.
Reznor and longtime co-producer Atticus Ross have created a piece of work that balances aggressive hard rock against electronic elements and jazzy structures. Opening with the abrasive "Shit Mirror," Trent screams, "New world, new times, mutation, feels alright," as super fuzzed out riffs lay underneath. "Ahead of Ourselves" follows with a driving jungle beat rhythm and piercing distortion.
Offering a break from the intense 1-2 punch of the opening tracks, "Play the Goddamned Part" is an instrumental featuring a jazzy kaleidoscope of horns and keyboards that feels similar to certain elements on David Bowie's final studio album, Blackstar. Following up with the jazzy theme, "God Break Down the Door" is an interesting mix of swirling electronic beats and atmospheric saxophone, rather uncharacteristic of the band. Instead of Reznor's familiar aggressive vocals, he chooses a calm and relaxed delivery, which counteracts the song's frenzied tempo.
The second instrumental on the album, "I'm Not from this World" explores ambient soundscapes and droning effects that can be found on Trent and Ross's soundtrack contributions to films. Ending on a somewhat dark tone, the lengthy "Over and Out" concludes the album with dance beats and Trent gently hushing, "Time is running out, I don't know what I'm waiting for."
Trent explained how today's internet addiction fueled certain themes found in Bad Witch in an interview with The Guardian:
We aren’t these enlightened beings, here to take care of each other and think about our benevolent role in the universe as protectors and creators – we’re just a fucking mutation and an accident.... We’ve got dumber, more tribalized; we’ve found niches of other people that focus on extremity. For the miracle of everyone sharing ideas, I see a hell of a lot more racism. It doesn’t feel like we’ve advanced. I think you’re seeing the fall of the empire of America in real time, before your eyes; the internet has eroded the fabric of decency in our civilization.
In the same interview, Reznor shared his beliefs about social media and how artists use the various online platforms, saying those things are "poisonous: I don’t think great art comes from being overly concerned or hyper-aware of what your audience’s expectations are. Market your brand: that’s part of what being an artist is, sadly.”
For longtime fans of NIN, Bad Witch may feel incomplete due to its short length. In conjunction with the previous two EPs, this is an ambitious and diverse set of music that shows Trent is still experimenting and full of ideas after a 20+ year career.
"Shit Mirror" and "I'm Not from This World" are interesting songs, but too abrasive and dissonant for most listening environments. Our favorite songs are "Ahead of Ourselves," "Play the Goddamned Part," "God Break Down the Door," and "Over and Out."
Pick up the album on Amazon. You can also stream it down below for free.