Trent is keeping his promises, that is always a good sign in my books. After the disappointingly average ‘Not the Actual Event EP’ (review cleverly linked here), I was not too sure if I really wanted to look into this one. At least not on a reviewing level, I would have still listened to it privately. I mean, it is Nine Inch Nails and they are one of the most important bands when I look back over the years I have been listening to music, each release has always (however the music has turned out) been an event and something to indulge in. So, I figured I might as well review it as well, sometimes the urge to do so is hard to resist. ‘Add Violence’ is the second of a promised trilogy of EP’s to be released, it has been released to coincide with their return to the live arena as well. Let us see what NIN have come up with this time…...
01 – Less Than
Now this is much better, straight away from the beginning NIN seem to be heading in a slightly new direction, but only slightly. The familiar hooks, rhythms and lyrics about despair and betrayal are all there. It is a really good song, it has a massive hook and that is what was missing so much on the last EP, it sounds like it was created by people that gave a shit about the end result i.e. - it contains fire in the belly, determination and passion.
02 – The Lovers
Once again, we are back to feeling of familiarity from NIN and this time it is ‘Fragile’ era NIN that has come to the forefront. It is a slow song, one that broods with a sullen tone to the music, there is a desperation in the lyrics and a professional feeling to the music once you have reached the end of the song. However, the feeling of familiarity makes this a song that is hard to love, a new Nine Inch Nails song should not (in this realm or the next) feel like an old comfy pair of slippers.
03 – This Isn’t the Place
The mood darkens further on ‘This Isn’t the Place’ and everyone is in trouble. The vast majority of the song is a building of noise, slowly adding volume with each passing beat to the point that it starts to distort the senses. Then it goes into a hymn of regret and perceived failure as a relationship or union that has ran its course and come to an end. It is a decent number, the music is good and once more, it is well played. But there is no spark to this song, it is not an essential NIN number and it sort of drifts by you.
04 – Not Anymore
It is always when Trent sounds determined that you should worry, finally he is starting to sound pissed off on ‘Not Anymore’. I have always preferred when Nine Inch Nails sound like a machine and there is a mechanical theme here, it has that passion that has been sorely missed for a long time on NIN releases and it does not feel comfortable at all. Finally there is anger, determination and fury which all combined to make the best overall song of the EP. Only criticism, it is the shortest song on the EP, can we please have more of this Mr. Reznor?
05 – The Background World
The final track is a song in two very distinct halves. Part one is all about another familiar pattern, one that harks back to ‘The Downward Spiral’ with a dose of self-pity and remorse. I was really prepared to write it off at this point to be honest. It sounds good and it builds to a good crescendo, but it did not feel like it was hitting the right buttons. But the second part is a loop, nothing more and nothing less. And it deconstructs itself for seven minutes and forty seconds, over and over again it corrupts with ever growing fragmentation and it is a mess by the end of the song. At first, I thought it was glitch on the stream, but as it slowly started to lose form, it hit me that we are seeing the darkest piece from NIN in a long time. The irony that the piece I love the most from this album is a droning seven minutes loop of disintegration, it really is not lost on me.
I was really going to write this EP off, just tear it to pieces after listening to ‘The Lovers’ and ‘This Isn’t the Place’ as they are as unimaginative and just too damn safe (or at least when you compare them to other NIN tracks). However, there is a lot to enjoy on this release as well. The fucked up ending of ‘The Background World’ is a piece of droning art (this would have been the song of the EP if released as a separate track), ‘Not Anymore’ shows that there is still a pissed off dude in there and ‘Less Than’ is a fantastic introduction back to the world. When compared to the ‘Not the Actual Event EP’, it is a positive step forward for me and it has a soul that was missing from the previous release. If you compare it to the holy grails of NIN EP’s (The ‘Broken’ and ‘Fixed’ EP’s), then you are going to be disappointed and that is something that I am guilty of doing as well. NIN are not that hungry band anymore, that feral, anger man is not there anymore. But that does not mean that they should be took behind the wood shed and put to sleep, in fact there are hints that things might get darker yet. It is not perfect by long shot, but there is improvement and that is always a good sign.
3.5 out of five - Decent, getting there.
Top track – Not Anymore