Waiting for a new NIN album is a bit like waiting for a post from Andy: years of nothing, followed by more nothing, then teases of something until finally, you get it. Only, unlike Andy, Trent Rezner's main squeeze usually delivers in a satisfying way. Also like Andy, when you get two in the same year (with promises of a third), you have to wonder if something is fundamentally wrong with the universe.
Nine Inch Nails' newest EP, Add Violence, confirms that we have in fact crossed over into an alternate reality. Hot on the heels of December's Not The Actual Events, it's the second of three planned EP releases. It's also a dramatic shift in tone and texture, and a welcome one at that. Not The Actual Events was something of an experiment in aural agony, a dark and twisted thing to be endured rather than enjoyed. Add Violence is plenty dark and twisty, but is a far more enjoyable experience overall.
The EP starts off with Less Than, a track that has the potential to be the first NIN song since Hand That Feeds to get some serious radio play. It still packs the signature layered discord that's become NIN's calling card, but over top of the wailing guitars and sinister effects is a synth pop riff that's more Depeche Mode than Downward Spiral. It's seriously catchy, but that does nothing to blunt the seething anger simmering in the background.
Up next is The Lovers, a brooding, sensual piece that at once feels intimate and isolating. It's not a terribly memorable track. Sinister spoken word voices hidden behind a layer of distortion, crooning chorus, and lots of bleeps and bloops. It's good background music, but doesn't catch the ear.
The third track, This Isn't the Place, is a slow burn. It builds slowly, spending the first two minutes weaving a soundscape reminiscent of the instrumental tracks from The Fragile, before the vocals cut in.