I start this review with a question. What’s the best part about being in a successful band for twenty plus years? You can phone it in!
Hell some bands don’t even wait that long, have you heard the new Five Finger Death Punch album? A master-class in playing it safe I can assure you. Bands in that unique position can just make the same album and it will sell by the bakers dozen and will keep old and new fans bobbing their heads along just fine (I refer to Metallica and Iron Maiden for further evidence).
However, tell that to Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails and I’m fairly confident he will stick a rubber chicken somewhere rather painful for making such absurd remarks (I now expect a rubber chicken reference in all future reviews – Rubber Poultry Enthusiast Editor).
It is always commendable for a band to aim to keep things new and interesting, like a long term couple using kinky marital aids for the first time. However, with experimental bands such as NIN there is always a danger of those experiments not working. ‘Bad Witch‘ is the third of three EP’s released by the iconoclast of industrial, with ‘Not The Actual Events’ and ‘Add Violence’ previously releasing in 2016 and 2017 respectively.
It was an interesting way of releasing a full album to say the least, give it to us in small chunks as today’s society is far too impatient for full 60 minute epics. The problem was with aforementioned two EP’s is that along with some songs that were very well written and composed, we may have ended up with some B-Side material also, as there were some songs that didn’t make for easy or accessible listening. However, I suppose this is the part where the NIN faithful will scream at me “That’s the f***ing point, you p***ing simpleton!”, so let’s just get on with the review as I can see the pitchforks and torches on the horizon.
Out of all three of the EP’s ‘Bad Witch’ is in my view, the strongest of the 3, or at least the more accessible. Kicking things off with ‘Shit Mirror’ there’s an air of old school NIN to this EP with it’s catchy punk industrial guitars and distorted synths. Reminiscent of the raw energy ‘March Of The Pigs’ once harboured and still smashing the boundaries of what electronic/industrial music should be. There’s a reason why Trent Reznor is renowned for changing the goal posts of a genre he helped create and is loved for it.
The EP wanders around nicely into all kinds of flavours for your ear-buds to devour in a feast of tasty enough music ‘Ahead Of Ourselves’ carries on that raw energy before it simmers nicely into ‘Play The God-Damned Part’, an instrumental to help the chaotic mind meditate in solitary refinement. Then ‘God Break Down The Door’ happens and f**k me does this song happen!
A confusing mish-mash of Saxophone, repetitive lyrics and late 1990’s club music, this song alone was a chore to listen to and, dare I say, ruins what could have been a solid entry into NIN’s back catalogue. If motion sickness could be defined into a song, I would happily throw this track’s hat into the ring.
The album doesn’t quite recover after this sadly. ‘I’m Not From This World’ has its moments but it’s 6:42 runtime doesn’t do enough to keep things interesting. This is then followed up by the epicly long 7:50 ‘Over and Out’ (an apt title to end this mess) which has its moments, but follows two minutes of ambient fade out.
Two f***ing minutes.
Alright Mr. Reznor me ol’ china, it’s time I took you around the back of the bike sheds for a stern telling off. Do you really think your fans are as pretentious as you are? ‘Bad Witch’ may have flexed some of your muscles to keep some of your flock of sheep alive (shiny gold star to anyone who can guess the lyrical reference) but the latter half the album is the musical equivalent of those Apple products you swear by.
Ten years ago you were worth defending, but these days you’re all style over substance and it’s painful to witness that you managed to f**k up a good thing within fifteen minutes.
It’s nice that after almost thirty years, NIN are still willing to experiment and progress when in theory, there is nothing left to prove – a David Lynch of musical composers we need artists like Trent Reznor to keep pushing boundaries. Yet, out of all three of your EP’s, it’s ironic to the point of tears that I can probably count on one hand which songs were worth keeping, which would make a whole EP that would be as strong and memorable as ‘Broken’, made way back in 1992.
Nine Inch Nails albums have a long break in between albums and now I finally understand why that is the case, I would rather wait five or six years in between albums and get an album that has a lot to dissect and listen to, then have quick releases of musical farting followed by some brown watery textured faeces in my ear. It’s a bugger to clean out and always embarrassing to explain to my doctor why there’s some f***ing sweetcorn lodged in my ear, when I need him to help remove a rubber chicken logged up my bum!