Design By Humans
Published On: Thu, Jul 26th, 2018

Nine Inch Nails: Bad Witch

Nine Inch Nails
Bad Witch
(The Null Corporation)

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Upon first listen, one almost expects to see promo photos of Trent Reznor with his “Perfect Drug”-era sleek black hair and goatee; the nostalgia is strong with this one. At times, it’s a solid throwback to his late 90s foray into drum n’ bass grooves and break beats crossed with jazz leanings, which sound like they came straight from the score of a David Lynch film. Given his frequent collaboration with Lynch and his more recent work on film scores (most notably, The Social Network), it all starts to make sense.

The third part of a trilogy which also includes EP releases Not The Actual Events and Add Violence, Bad Witch is the first album since 2007’s Year Zero to be produced only by the band members.

It starts out strong and heavy with “Shit Mirror” and “Ahead Of Ourselves,” which sound like classic Nine Inch Nails, but this time all grown up. We’re then plunged into the surreal instrumental number, “Play The Goddamned Part,” which has a dirty and disjointed jazz feel with a distant saxophone (yes, that’s Trent Reznor on sax!) against a backdrop of ambient drones and gritty break beats. This makes way for “God Break Down The Door,” the album’s first single, in which Reznor’s vocals are eerily similar to Bowie circa Earthling/Outside.

“I’m Not From This World” evokes the ethereal gloom of a world that feels like a strange cross between a post-apocalyptic urban wasteland and perhaps the Black Lodge from Twin Peaks. “Over and Out” provides powerful closure to the album, with a moody bass line set against piano and gritty industrial rhythms. When Reznor sings, “Time is running out/I don’t know what I’m waiting for,” he sounds so similar to Bowie that it’s like hearing a ghost. 

There’s definitely a strength and sense of direction to this album that has been less prevalent in Reznor’s work lately, a sense of retrospect and reflection. While the jazz-meets-electro vibe is an acquired taste, Bad Witch sets a mood that really does feel supernatural. 

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Nine Inch Nails: Bad Witch