Add Violence – Nine Inch Nails (2017)

***1/2

Trent Reznor’s latest 5-track EP starts out strong in a new direction before resetting and heading down the same beaten path of chaotic synth crunchiness that he’s walked since the ’90s. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it’s hard to fault one of the greatest artists of all time for sticking to his guns. But after the fifth minute of the looping, out-of-sync synth distortion that dominates the album’s epic 12-minute closer “The Background World,” you begin to question if it’s genius or laziness. Elsewhere, two ballads (sort of) make up the meat of the album. “The Lovers” is a bit too sparse to be a classic, but it’s enjoyable nonetheless. But even Thom Yorke would be proud to claim ownership of “This Isn’t the Place” a spacey, dystopian love affair that brings all of the urgency of a late night fling mixed with regret and sorrow. It’s really quite good. As is often the case with established artists, I am left wondering what would happen if Reznor stepped out in a new direction, especially after hearing Add Violence‘s downright groovy intro “Less Than.” But if that was a step in the right direction, the aptly titled “Not Anymore” takes you right back down to reality; the old Nine Inch Nails isn’t going anywhere. For better or worse.

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