Sound: Ah, Trent Reznor does it again. Along with his wife, Mariqueen Maandig, and some guy no one cares about called Atticus Ross (who has produced for Nine Inch Nails as well as Jane's Addiction), Reznor has created an interesting post-indistrial group called How to Destroy Angels, and, in June of 2010 released their eponymous EP.
The name actually comes from the debut EP by band Coil, so you can imagine that, whilst musical creativity is all over this record, the name is a blatant and inexplicable ripoff. Really, Trent?
This being from the same guy who pulls off Nine Inch Nails, I'm sure you can imagine the sound; ominous and experimental. Whilst lighter in tone than most Nine Inch Nails stuff, there is a definite Reznor presence here. It's his child, after all.
In many ways, however, this EP sounds nothing like anything he did for Nine Inch Nails - the sound is less angry and more frustrated. Less screaming and more shouting. In other words, the musical emotions are present, but muted; less raw than anything NIN presents. I would almost say there's more of a Shiny Toy Guns vibe if I weren't afraid of people who take music seriously shouting at me in the comments. Eh, people are still annoyed at my lukewarm review of 'Thriller,' so I'll live.
This being said, it's all great stuff, opening with "The Space in Between"'s haunting ambiance, continuing with the grittier "Parasite," which incorporates more angry guitar; this is followed by "Fur Lined," one of the better tracks, which is one place where I'll think Shiny Toy Guns or - God forbid - Lady Gaga. Granted, I highly doubt the genius Reznor took ANY leafs out of Gaga's - er - book, but this fits right in with some of the bouncier techno/pop songs of the age.
"BBB" is one of my personal favorites, and I can't really figure out why. It might be the sexy vocals or alluring lyrics. Yeah, that'll be it. "The Believers" is decent as well, with some pretty deep and very natural-feeling experimental instrumentation to open. Bringing up the rear is "A Drowning," which can best be described as the easiest track on the record, if the longest.
Throughout this list, we're met with a solid sound quite distinct from the other records Reznor has worked on, which is always nice; I'd hate to tell you "This is a bad excuse for a NIN sellout." Thankfully, no such warnings are necessary. I can tell you confidently that 'How to Destroy Angels' sounds great, has tight production, and a nice break from the more emotionally direct works Trent has released. // 8
Lyrics: Despite distinct musical style, the biggest difference between Nine Inch Nails and How to Destroy Angels may just be the vocals. Instead of listening to Trent confess his emotional issues, we get to hear Mrs Reznor's pipes.
Her voice is a softer coo, more akin to Enya or other vocalists of the sort, if less Irish. This blends perfectly with the softer vibe of this EP. Quite honestly, if we had to hear Trent ranting darkly about how "I get everything I want when I get part of you" and whatnot, it would just be out of place..
Lyrics are exceptional for a side-project, and just what you'd expect from something Reznor put his hands on. Sure, he's not singing, but I highly doubt he had nothing to do with the lyrical composition and various other aspects of this EP.
This being said, I'm giving 'HTDA' an 8/10 for good lyrics, vocals which mesh perfectly and are half of what makes this record so enjoyable, and overall decent singer skills. // 8
Overall Impression: Obviously, I can't draw comparisons to other How to Destroy Angels records, as they don't exist. I'm not even going to whip out Coil references or hold it next to 'The Downward Spiral,' because this is nothing like either.
Whereas Trent Reznor has everything to do with this record, it's as innovative as Nine Inch Nails and in different ways. Comparisons to other artists are certainly up for grabs, but for every "I've heard this before" moment, there were "Oh yeah, this is my groove; this is the new thing!" moments.
EPs are great because you can produce a few really great songs and stick them all on one CD, and that's exactly what 'How to Copy Other Artists' EP Titles' does. From beginning to end, this EP delivers the goods, though the standout moments are in "BBB," "Fur Lined," and "A Drowning."
Overall, quite a good EP, and they're offering it to you for free - you heard me - on their website. I highly recommend giving the album a spin and seeing what you think. It's not for everyone, like any record, but for fans of the genre and perhaps those wanting a look into the experimental side, this is an excellent choice. // 8