Nine Inch Nails: Not The Actual Events
Artist: Nine Inch Nails
Album:Not The Actual Events
Released: December 22, 2016
Nine Inch Nails embarked on the “Wave Goodbye” tour in 2009 after Trent Reznor, NIN’s singular official member, wanted to move on to work on other projects and scores. His first appearance was scoring “The Social Network” in 2010 with musical-mate Atticus Ross. His newest project, How To Destroy Angels, also released a string of releases while he went on to score “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”, “Gone Girl”, and more. However, the suggested termination of Nine Inch Nails didn’t last long. NIN returned in 2013 with Hesitation Marks. Critics and fans, at times, harshly critiqued Hesitation Marks. It was more electronic based than many seemed to anticipate, such as a heavier return such as NIN’s early catalog. The irony to me is that I personally think Hesitation Marks resembles the debut album, Pretty Hate Machine, more than any other NIN release to date.
Reznor, used to abrasive reactions and reviews, moved forward and announced in 2016 that there would be three NIN EP’s coming and a release by the end of 2016. In the event that the term “EP” has been lost due to streaming and digital music, it stands for “Extended Play” which refers to spindle speed of record players in the vinyl days. The reason for this, and why the term is still used, is an “EP” is simply a short album. NIN’s first EP, Broken (1992), lasted only 25 minutes but allowed no room for filler or breaks for the listener.
The first of these EP’s is Not The Actual Events. It nearly missed his end-of-2016 goal but successfully was released upon his label, The Null Corporation, on December 22nd. Instantly, the listener is thrown, quite honestly, back a bit into Reznor’s prior habits of extreme experimentation. Admitting in several interviews that he no longer looks to play all of the instrumentation himself, which was the case for most of early Nine Inch Nails, but to be the overseer of sorts and act more as a musical director. This is not, of course, to say that he no longer plays on NIN albums, but rather doesn’t look to do 100% of the work himself.In fact, Not The Actual Events (EP #1), marks the first appearance of Atticus Ross as an official member of Nine Inch Nails, a first since Reznor’s conception in the late 1980’s.
Not The Actual Events runs twenty one minutes, beginning with “Branches/Bones” running only just under two minutes. Guitars have more of a signature NIN sound, played by Robin Finck, which are tucked into nearly the background and muffled rather than being sharp, out front, and jarring. Over the years, this has the style Robin Finck (1994-2000, 2008-2009, 2013-??) has brought to NIN. “Branches/Bones” is short but certainly dips into punk, which is even more notable in its chorus. The song is quite quick and loud, granted two minutes doesn’t leave a lot of room for introduction build-up.
“Dear World” follows, which throws the listener into the mindset that nothing should be predicted. “Dear World” is entirely different from the previous song, with a quick segmented drum beat, electronics more resonant of Hesitation Marks, and Reznor creepily softly speaking the lyrics. This is only to bleed into a very melodic and clearer vocals…only to return to creepy and abrubtly go silent at the two minute mark. Reznor’s been known to stop songs in an instant such as 1997’s “The Perfect Drug”. Experimenting again, after a couple of measures, “Dear World” continues. The electronic instrumentation (sounds) reminded me a lot of old 1980’s computer games. Ironically, this comes into play more with the second EP.
Track 3: “She’s Gone Away”. Certainly, the first thing to state is that if the listener wants to hear ingredients from earlier days, especially 1994’s The Downward Spiral, the drums in “She’s Gone Away” are just that. Large and loud drum beats nearly in the time signature of 1994’s “Eraser” and supported by a slow tempo bassline, showing his early influence from UK’s Joy Division, which he’s never denied. This song is really hard to describe otherwise, which is good. It is dark and gritty, but not the same darkness of The Downward Spiral, it is something different entirely.
One of my utmost favorite qualities in certain musicians is their openmindedness to very anti-egocentrically recognize recieved influences, not just from past artists and bands (relatively common), but from current bands or even more so: projects collaborated with other musicians where their perspectives have grown a bit. Not The Actual Events’ fourth track, “The Idea of You” is a prime example of this. In 2013, Trent Reznor, along with Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age) and Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters/Nirvana), collaborated on a song titled Mantra“. The song is a conception of all three very unique artists for Dave Grohl’s documentary “Sound City”, the history of legendary recording studio Sound City Studios in Los Angeles. Led by Grohl, one of the quite rare appearances by Reznor in a project where he wasn’t exactly leading. It could be just me or it could be generating for the almost Grohl-like drum patterns, “The Idea of You” really has the vibe of being influenced by that experience. The minimalistic pianos also seem to resonate somewhat from “Mantra”. This is true at least until the chorus which overdubs and echos Reznor’s original vocals for the chorus.
Closing the album is “Burning Bright (Field on Fire). This would likely be one of the more underrated songs on the EP. The opening guitar riff is quite different from any previous NIN and resembles many riffs by Max Cavelera and Andreas Kisser during Sepultura‘s Roots era (1995-1997). The tempo is slow, with most of the vocals avoiding melody including Reznor’s sounding as if it was run through a PA system.
Not The Actual Events definitely shows yet more evolution of Nine Inch Nails as, even in five tracks, it splits off in many different experimental directions. It also sounds less polished (more raw) than Hesitation Marks which notes the usual differences between NIN releases.