Nine Inch Nails - Bad Witch - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Nine Inch Nails - Bad Witch

by paul_guyet Rating:10 Release Date:2018-06-22
Nine Inch Nails - Bad Witch
Nine Inch Nails - Bad Witch

Sometimes…it’s just fucking exhausting to be a Nine Inch Nails fan. Most bands…they say, hey, we have an album coming out. Then there’s a single or two, maybe a video, then the album. It’s good, you like it, you play it a lot, you attach thoughts and ideas to it, you continue listening to it, you see the band in concert, you post pictures on social media, you feel important, life goes on. Not with Nine Inch Nails. Oooooh no. Starting with the first time Trent fucking Reznor said the words “concept album”, everything has been a goddamn marathon. Anyone ever hear about the whole Year Zero ARG? No? Do you even know what an ARG is?! Well fuck you, because my favorite band is more calculating and deliberate than yours. My favorite band hides new music in European bathroom stalls. My favorite band puts as much time and planning into THE ALTERNATE REALITY ASSOCIATED WITH THEIR NEW ALBUM AS THE ALBUM ITSELF.

And, while I’m bragging, I’m also lamenting, because I can no longer just…fucking…LISTEN to a new release from Nine Inch Nails. I have to dissect it. I have to search for hidden lyrics in the lyrics tab on various streaming platforms. I have to play it backwards. I HAVE TO RUN THE FUCKING THING THROUGH A SPECTROGRAM TO LOOK FOR HIDDEN PICTURES IN THE WAVEFORMS.


All this to say: the trilogy of albums, which started in 2016 with Not The Actual Events and continued in 2017 with Add Violence has been completed. The mystery has been solved. Our entire world is just a computer simulation. Or not. Whatever. I can’t feel anything anymore.

But how about those saxophones?!

Leaning more towards the dissonant impenetrability of Not The Actual Events than the mellow, nuanced gloom of Add Violence, half of the lyrics on Bad Witch are crooned in the style of Bowie, whereas the rest are buried behind walls of noise. Hand claps have never sounded less celebratory than on the opener, “Shit Mirror”*...“I eat your loathing, hate, and fear / Should probably stay away from here” Reznor warns**. “Ahead of Ourselves” writhes with smirking, barely restrained fury until the chorus when it snaps its chain for just a few bars at a time, nearly doubling in volume. Those moments feel like actual punishment for the mistakes we’ve made. “Obsolete / Insignificant / Antiquated / Irrelevant / Celebration of ignorance / Why try change when you know you can’t?”.
After the punch/kick combo of the first two tracks, “Play The Goddamned Part” and “God Break Down The Door" take the listener on a noirish, Lynch/Bowie influenced midnight journey. When the latter was dropped a few weeks back as the one and only single, it consternated a lot of fans, but it finds its place in the context of the album and fits perfectly.
While the first two thirds of Bad Witch are brutal, more an assault than an album, the last third, consisting of the nightmare soundscape of “I’m Not From This World” and the funky, hypnotic groove of “Over And Out”, provides a welcome shift. The final two minutes of the album serve as a well-deserved respite from everything that came before it.

With or without the context of the trilogy of albums released over the past year and a half, Bad Witch stands as the most unexpected and challenging work Nine Inch Nails has ever created. If Trent Reznor were to retire now, I cannot envision a more perfect endpoint to his career. Or, if he wants to keep making groundbreaking stuff for another 30 years, that’s fine with me too. Whatever. Like I said, I can’t feel anything anymore.

* Yes, yes, believe me, I know, I had the same thought.

** Yes! Seriously! I know how it sounds, but the song more than justifies the title and lyrics! CONTEXT, PEOPLE! IT'S ABOUT CONTEXT!

Overall Rating (2)

5 out of 5 stars
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