How To Destroy Angels – How To Destroy Angels Album Review
Trent Reznor has always made unequivocally masculine music. From the lyrical themes that dominate Nine Inch Nail’s discography to that band’s trademark electro-warfare and his howled barks, you were always keenly aware that you were hearing a guy pouring his angst and misery into the music.
Enter the new Mrs. Reznor – aka Mariqueen Maandig, formerly the singer of West Indian Girl. After retiring the live version of Nine Inch Nails, Reznor got married and jumped right back into the studio with his new bride (along with frequent NIN collaborator Atticus Ross) under the banner How To Destroy Angels. There is absolutely no mistaking the Reznor/Ross influence of the band’s debut self-titled EP, but Maandig’s inclusion lends a femininity to the classic NIN sound in a way that is both compelling and utterly appropriate.
Maandig sings in the same fashion that Reznor did on most of his downtempo, subdued tracks, but it sounds completely fresh coming from a woman. Right off the bat in the opener “The Space In Between,” she shows off her breathy, near-whispering coo that is simultaneously sexy, ethereal and haunting. Put it this way, her voice personified would be Mal from Inception. It’s pretty sublime hearing her push out the lyric “I am just an animal / Just a fucking chemical” past the layers of reverb and echoing that’s been piled on top of “Fur-lined.” And then right after that, in “BBB,” the music just drops into this filthy bass-heavy beat and she sounds either like a dominatrix or an agent of Trent’s Year Zero dystopian nightmare.
The music itself is hardly different from recent NIN – super heavy on the electronic elements and heavy bass beats. “Fur-lined” sounds very reminiscent of “Only,” and “Parasite” could have been on Year Zero or The Slip. The only real dud is “The Believers” which gets a little lost among the jungle beat and electronic flourishes. The real gem of this EP is the closing track, “A Drowning.” It’s little more than a hypnotizing rhythm that covers seven minutes and supports Maandig’s achingly beautiful and strangely soothing (given the subject matter) lament for someone to keep her from succumbing to the metaphorical tides rolling over her head.
It wouldn’t surprise me if, as this group grows together, they start to branch out from the established NIN sound a little bit more, but as a glimpse into the band’s capabilities, How To Destroy Angels is undoubtedly a success. Hearing Trent’s music fronted by an alluring female voice is really quite refreshing, and it achieves a new dynamic from his past work. And perhaps best of all, as has become his custom, the band is giving away this EP for free. So go get yourself a copy, pronto.