ALBUM REVIEW: Reznor still cuts deep on ‘Marks’

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First Posted: 9/9/2013

Of all the music that was created in the ‘90s, one can argue that two bands make up a majority of the influence on what kids listen to today: Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails.

Rock is slowly becoming a niche genre, but lead singer and producer Trent Reznor’s pioneering use of electronics on his early albums still sounds refreshing thanks to the explosion of the EDM scene and its burst into pop music.

And now, with Nine Inch Nails’ latest release, “Hesitation Marks,” Reznor has tackled the giant monster that is pop music. Who would have thought that this year’s most talked about rap album would be closer to a NIN record than Kayne West’s?

Now, just because the band has included elements of a more pop-toned sound does not mean Nine Inch Nails went soft. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. “Hesitation Marks” incorporated these pop elements to create a heavy-hitter that is exclusively its own – and exclusively rock and roll.

The first full-length track is “Copy of A,” and it is in every way, shape, and form a summation of everything the band has done up to this point. With chugging synths and ominous undertones, the track is a dance number. Its beat is bouncy, and its vibe is heavy.

“Came Back Haunted” follows the opener, and it is just a touch more eerie than its predecessor. In fact, it would make for a perfect backing track for a horror movie. It’s jam-packed with dark sounds, picking up and getting harder at some points, creating an element of surprise that would make the average listener jump in the dark.

The introduction of pop elements comes later in the record and can best be seen on “Disappointed” and “Everything.” The former plays on poppy synthesizer loops and a mellow vocal line. It is pop, yes, but it is dark pop. Reznor’s voice comes on softly and sweetly, yet it still carries its typical grungy, snarly sounds.

The latter features soaring guitars and a saccharine vocal performance, dipping and diving and dancing along the line that borders rock and pop. It is some of the most mainstream sounding work Reznor’s ever released, but it still maintains the hard-hitting quality and complexity for which he’s best known.

“Hesitation Marks” is one of the most complete and complex works NIN has done up to this point. It brings the band full circle and combines all of the elements that a fan of the band would want to hear. Reznor made a statement, and it is that the best is yet to come from him.

Nine Inch Nails ‘Hesitation Marks’ Rating: W W W W

-Matt Morgis, Weekender Correspondent