Say what you’d like about Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails, but one thing is for sure: the guy never puts out the same vibe twice. And that, my friends, is a rare and wonderful thing in a world bubbling over with cookie-cutter, radio-friendly flashes in the pan.
Bad Witch is the culmination of a three-year, three-EP (this one is technically an LP but I’ll leave that particular argument in semantics to Reddit) journey that began with the fierce sci-fi horror slice Not The Actual Events and continued with last summer’s Add Violence.
Radio friendly, Bad Witch is most certainly not. The first single “God Break Down The Door” is a strange, trippy journey of saxophones, synths and a break-neck beat that wouldn’t be out of place in a noir movie. Reznor also has a few tricks up his sleeve vocally (something he’s long been criticized for not cultivating), as he cries out the lyrics in a Bowie-esque manner.
Even as a long-time fan and listener this track surprised me. I wasn’t even sure it was Trent singing until I gave it a few more spins.
The rest of the album follows suit. The first two tracks, “Shit Mirror” and “Getting Ahead of Ourselves,” hark back to Nails’ guitar-fueled, angry past and will please most fans. Trent hasn’t sounded this aggressive since, well, Not The Actual Events (see: The Idea of You).
Then we have two massive (NIN)strumental tracks “Play The Goddamn Part” and “I’m Not From This World”. The former is another sax and synth heavy orgy in the ears, which blends and flows nicely into “God Break Down The Door.” The latter instrumental, however, is a masterclass in building dread and horror. This track is absolutely chilling with a pair of good headphones and demands multiple listens.
Finally, rounding out the little album, is the somehow simultaneously somber and bright “Over And Out.” Reznor busts out the Bowie vocals once again singing, “Time is running out. I don’t know what I’m waiting for.” The tension and build-up is again masterfully done here, and the last two minutes of the song give way to an eerie, haunting wasteland of sounds which then slowly fade into pure nothingness, effectively ending the album.
Nine Inch Nails’ music has always had a way of transporting the listener to another place with evocative, violent imagery and haunting soundscapes and arrangements. Bad Witch is a culmination of everything the man has learned over the past couple decades and stands as an extremely cohesive six-song opus. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea so to speak, but I find myself unable to take it off repeat. The songs herein are dark, strange and sometimes off-putting, but I can think of no better compliment when referencing this album.
I wouldn’t recommend this to a new NIN listener, but for veteran fans, there’s plenty to dig into and love here.
If you only listen to one song, it should be “Over And Out.”
Never change, Trent.