Trent Reznor never takes a break. After dissolving Nine Inch Nails in 2009, it looked like he was going to disappear for a while. Instead, he composed the soundtracks for The Social Network and Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, wrote the theme song for Call of Duty 2, won an academy award, and started the band How to Destroy Angels. Welcome Oblivion is the first full-length album for How to Destroy Angels, the collaborative project between Trent Reznor and his wife, Mariqueen Maandig. Though the music contains the same general concept that a collection of Nine Inch Nails tracks might, the album seems to lack any real direction or focus. The final result ends up feeling more like b-sides to NIN songs rather than a project on their own.
Let’s start with the album highlights, shall we? The titular song “Welcome Oblivion” shows what the band can do when everything comes together right. A dark, driving bass synth line, atonal electronic noises, and industrial drum beats make up the instrumental part of the track. Maandig’s vocals go from harsh and yelled to soft and melodic for the chorus as she sings “You know what you have done. Welcome oblivion.” A second high point for the album is the song “Strings and Attractors”. The beat is chaotic, yet minimal while maintaining a certain element of pop throughout. Maandig’s vocals once again just work on this song. Her singing is beautiful and comes of completely effortless.
The biggest issue I had with the album is all of the long, repetitive instrumental breaks that seem to go nowhere. One of the most awkward moments in the album comes fairly early. “Ice Age” is an almost seven minute long song containing a very repetitive banjo lick. By the end of the song, you are very glad it is over. The song “Too Late, All Gone” starts off promising, but never delivers. At a length of six minute and fifteen seconds, the track feels very formulaic and cyclical. The line “The more we change everything stays the same” is repeated more times than I even care to count.
Unfortunately, the most I can say for many of the tracks on the album is that they are very forgettable. I feel that this album was something that Trent Reznor needed to do, not for his fans, but for himself. The addition of his wife into his life had to spill over into his music at some point and How to Destroy Angels is the result. It’s a good thing Nine Inch Nails are back together.