Sunday, 31 March 2013

How To Destroy Angels - Welcome Oblivion (Album Review 2013)

The musical collaboration of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross gained the duo a Golden Globe and an Oscar for The Social Network soundtrack in 2011, and a Grammy for score of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Reznor has come a long way from the angst-ridden establishment-bashing controversy of Nine Inch Nails: 1989's Pretty Hate Machine and 1994's The Downward Spiral. Now, a more settled and reasoned savvy industry animal and family man, alongside his wife Mariqueen Maandig, he is now one quarter of How To Destroy Angels. Rob Sheridan, who has worked with Reznor, and on the aforementioned soundtracks, completes the band as 'art director'.

Welcome Oblivion is the much awaited début album from How To Destroy Angels, taking the best of previous EP 'An Omen' and forming a full-length body of work (the vinyl version has two extra tracks: The Province of Fear and Unintended Consequences in a different running order - this review is of the CD/digital edition). Maandig is lead-vocalist with Reznor appearing occasionally, adding his trademark moody voice, but mainly he and Ross lay down the groundwork. Harsh grinding guitars and thrash drums have made way for stark electronica and smooth rhythms, and with Maandig's delicious tones, they are more than just Nine Inch Nails 2.0. She adds a new dimension, a calm presence within the fragmented industrial landscape.

The early highlight And The Sky Began To Scream sets the morose tone as a bleak electronic backdrop makes way for Maandig's world-weary start and Reznor's menacing finish. The song is beautifully constructed and arranged. Ice Age is a surprising break from formula - seven minutes of industrial folk with Maandig delivering an elegant crisp vocal, while How Long? attempts credible R&B with some success. And the album closes strongly with the wonderful The Loop Closes and Hallowed Ground. The former builds from Ghosts-like instrumental to a simple vocal duet, while the latter grows slowly from piano into strings, gradually filling with choral layers and buzzing production. Elsewhere results are mixed but everything stays neatly on course. Opener The Wake-Up is ominous until the startling riff arrives, piercing the atmosphere, the title track is a more controlled and accessible Crystal Castles, while Strings And Attractors fuses a prickly soundtrack with the softness of the vocals. The near-instrumental Recursive Self-Improvement adds a beguiling injection of pace.

How To Destroy Angels will no doubt draw comparisons with Nine Inch Nails - it is in Trent Reznor's blood, his soul. So this is not a distraction. Welcome Oblivion is more than the result of a side-project, or an experiment. Similar themes and thoughts have been crafted into a different creation. Sometimes it is necessary for a band not only to evolve and progress but to create an outlet, a creative diversion, an alter-ego. How To Destroy Angels is now as much an essential part of Trent Reznor as Nine Inch Nails, and with Ross and Maandig, he has the perfect companions.
-- CS

No comments: