How to Destroy Angels
An Omen EP
It is still not completely clear where Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, and Mariqueen Maandig (Reznor’s wife) are taking their How to Destroy Angels project. In 2010 when they first released their first self-titled EP, and it was very average, I thought maybe Reznor was just throwing his wife a bone by producing some music for her admittedly nice vocals. Then, when realizing that the 2010 EP was basically average-ish NIN songs with a female vocalist, I thought Reznor may be looking for a new twist on his production style with a female vocalist.
A full album from HtDA still hasn’t come out, and the timing, new information, and what Reznor/Ross did in between EP’s has just created more questions. Reznor is apparently working on new NIN material, set to release a HtDA LP in 2013, and produced two exceptional film scores with Ross (The Social Network and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo). The man is working his ass off, so if some of his work is average I completely understand. That being said, An Omen EP is interesting enough to get me excited about future releases.
Most interesting is the opening track, “Ice Age”, the most unique track when viewed against the rest of Reznor’s catalog. Mostly deliberate bass and a looping acoustic guitar riff with a few very subtle electronic atmospherics, “Ice Age” focuses on the beauty of Maandig’s voice. The self-restraint in the production room shows some artistic growth for Reznor, who has demonstrated himself to be the consummate control freak during his career.
After the opener things start to settle into a much more Reznor-ish place. “Keep it Together”, “The Loop Closes”, and “On the Wing” are all solid tracks, but all have flaws. The biggest flaw is the under-utilization of Maandig’s voice. She is toned down, keeping things too monotone to display her abilities. The upside on all three tracks is that the production is pristine. The fading in and out of Reznor’s voice toward the end of “Keep it Together” is just mastery in the production booth. In addition, the build in “The Loop Closes” is the closest he has come to The Fragile in a long long time.
The real downside of An Omen EP are the final two tracks: “The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters” and “Speaking in Tongues”. I can’t express how much I love the former’s title, but both tracks display a complete lack of focus. “The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters” is trying so hard to be this ethereal mood track, but falls flat as anything I would ever listen to of my own volition. Similarly, “Speaking in Tongues” distorted guitars lead the 7-minute track in no particularly discernible direction.
Four out of six tracks on an EP being enjoyable, with one of those being great is not exactly a shoddy performance. But hopefully HtDA can turn the corner into something great before everyone questions whether Trent Reznor’s considerable talents could be better utilized elsewhere.
Can’t Miss: “Ice Age”, “The Loop Closes”
Can’t Hit: “The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters”, “Speaking in Tongues”