Three years after forming and Trent Reznor has finally managed to tear himself away from his film composing duties long enough to record Welcome Oblivion, the full-length debut album from his latest side-project, How To Destroy Angels.
Accompanied by Nine Inch Nails’ video director Rob Sheridan and Atticus Ross, the British composer who he teamed up with on the Oscar-winning score to The Social Network and the Grammy winning score for the remake of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, there’s inevitably still a hugely big-screen feel to the album’s thirteen tracks, in particular the series of sketchy ambient soundscapes that close the record.
Indeed, “We Fade Away,” a collaboration with SONOIO frontman Alessandro Cortini which blends life support machine bleeps with wailing animal-like noises, the My Bloody Valentine-esque drone of “Recursive Self-Improvement” and the melancholic wall of feedback which surrounds the eerie finale “Hallowed Ground” all feel more like incidental music for a sci-fi thriller than fully-formed songs.
Away from How To Destroy Angels’ slightly meandering digital noodlings, opener “The Wake Up” combines clomping synth-snares, spacey bleeps and stinging industrial riffs to produce a thrilling slice of slow-motion techno, while “On The Wing” recalls Muse’s flirtations with vocodered electronica.
But it’s when Reznor’s wife, Mariqueen Maandig, takes centre stage that Welcome Oblivion most effectively abandons its ‘soundtrack to a film that doesn’t exist’ vibe, whether she’s screaming in a deranged fashion on the tribal techno-punk of the title track, channelling the femme fatales of 90s trip-hop on the twitchy “Too Late, All Gone” or cooing gently over the plucked banjo hooks of the folky “Ice Age.”
At over 65 minutes long, Welcome Oblivion would definitely have benefitted from a bit more ruthlessness in the editing suite. But whilst it doesn’t quite live up to Reznor’s recent cinematic work, it’s still another intriguing and often triumphant reinvention.