On May 28, 2013, Trent Reznor posted on Nine Inch Nails official website that he had been secretly working on a new NIN album. The album would see the light of day this year, backed by a full tour from Trent and the band, and in that one moment the world stopped and the internet exploded. Nine Inch Nails were back. Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails are one of the few bands in history that inspires slavish devotion from their fans, who will literally travel to the end of the earth to seek out even the tiniest morsel that is left out for them.
So i’ts fair to say that when the album, titled “Hesitation Marks” was set for a September 3, release date, it was met with high anticipation. Leading up to its release, the band have released 4 tracks to whet the appetites, in the form of ‘Came Back Haunted’, ‘Copy of A’, ‘Find My Way’ and ‘Everything’.
Incidentally, the first 3 tracks listed there are the first 3 on the album, after the humming introduction of ‘The Eater of Dreams,’ which if I’m not mistaken is only the second time the band has used an instrumental introduction to a full length album outside of 2008’s “The Slip.”
There is an instant familiarity to proceedings when listening to “Hesitation Marks,” much of which can be atoned to the fact that as I said the first 3 tracks on the album have been released pre-album launch, but also they tread familiar ground sound wise, picking up right where Trent and Co. left off in 2008 with “The Slip.” This is a more focused and streamlined NIN than people may be used to, with much of the album sounding like what would happen if Trent sat down to write “The Fragile” now as opposed to back in 1999.
Much has been made that this album will work as a sequel of sorts to “The Downward Spiral” and I think in many cases that is a misguided claim, but it certainly works well as a companion piece to that album. Trent Reznor is no longer “Mr Self Destruct,” he is now a married, Oscar winning father of two, his dreams, goals and methods of coping have changed, and as such so has his emotional response to dealing with things. This really comes to the forefront on the new album, the two albums that now kind of bookend one man’s journey through life are very akin to Blade Runner. “Hesitation Marks” is the sunrise and the sense of calm relief at the end of this bleak industrial nightmare, and no, I cannot answer the question as to whether or not Reznor is a Replicant, but I think the analogy speaks for itself.
There are moments on “Hesitation Marks,” that are slow and sinister, that will get under your skin and lyrics that will nest in your head. This album rewards repeated listens and really plays unlike anything else in NIN‘s vast and varied arsenal. You would never have had a track like ‘Everything’ on a Nine Inch Nails album previously, but here it fits perfectly. It seems that the angry young man with drugs and suicidal thoughts flowing in his veins really did grow into one of the most thought provoking and emotionally resonant artists in the history of music, and it seems that time away has made the fire burn that much brighter.
“Hesitation Marks” is an album full of lush production, layered and organic beats, and lyrics full of hope and realisation. This is the realest album, this band has produced since “The Fragile” and I say real in the sense that it comes from a real place of emotional substance, that is inside all of us. This is the light at the end of the tunnel, the moment when you realise it’s OK to let go and that in doing so you have regained control over who you are. This is the Nine Inch Nails album I’ve been waiting for since the band reformed the first time in 2005. I realise that in some cases this won’t be the case for everyone, but you will take away from “Hesitation Marks” what you put into it, the more you put into it, the more rewarding the album becomes.
“Hesitation Marks” is evolution in its purest form,a culmination of an entire lifes work, you can literally hear everything that has made Trent Reznor the man he is today, there is emotion and passion wringing out of the very pores that envelope the music on this album, there are callbacks to every moment in his career to date, moments that hark back to earlier Nine Inch Nails works as well as his work with How to Destroy Angels and his collaborations with David Fincher as well.
For anyone walking into this expecting “Pretty Hate Machine” or “The Downward Spiral” parts two, then this is not the album for you. We already have those albums and they will always have their place, but with “Hesitation Marks” Nine Inch Nails and Trent Reznor especially have delivered a mature and focused album that shows you don’t have make violent aggressive music to make heavy music. You just need to find a way to open up, when it’s all said and done, if this is the last hurrah, the final thing committed to tape by Nine Inch Nails, then “Hesitation Marks” will go down in history as one of Nine Inch Nails’ crowning moments.
Until it’s time to wave goodbye again, it’s good to have you back boys.