Friday, March 08, 2013

How To Destroy Angels: "Welcome Oblivion" (album review)

I'm not sure why Trent Reznor would trump the release of his new band's debut full length with the news of a Nine Inch Nails tour the week before the album's release, but he did.  So the release of How To Destroy Angels' Welcome Oblivion seems anticlimactic now.

All of that aside, Reznor, alongside his Social Network collaborator Atticus Ross, has managed to put together some of the most engaging arrangements we've heard from him in some time.

The album opens with the deep heavy groove of "The Wake-Up", which offers no small modicum of hope for what's to follow.

The computerized blips and smacks of "Strings and Attractors" hearken back to the early, more rudimentary days of NIN.  After years of over-layered and unfocused arrangements, a more basic combination is welcome.  For "On the Wing", it's the modulation of elements, rather than simply adding more and more to the mix, that builds a winning equation.

Of course, there are some tracks like "And the Sky Began To Scream" that sound like nothing more than latter day NIN filler.  "Recursive Self-Improvement" works it's way into a "Mr Self Destruct"-type frenzy by the end.

The vocals, provided primarily by Reznor's wife Mariqueen Maandig, are by far the weak link.  They get completely lost in the low-laying fog of a song like "Keep It Together", and have absolutely no hope in standing up in harder songs.

"How Long?" appears to have been written to be the focal track.  It has an Industrialized American Idol sound and the record's sharpest hook.

In a handful of instances things are pieced together to adequately cover up the shortcomings.  The delayed and overlapped vocals on the title track create a intriguing effect, while the minimalist plinking of "Ice Age" interlaces and supports Maandig quite well.

In the end there are simply too many tracks on the record, especially if you get the deluxe edition which includes the band's debut EP.  Too many tracks in this case means that subpar songs are going to make the cut.  That's exactly what has happened.

How To Destroy Angels play the Sound Academy in Toronto on April 25th.

Best tracks: "The Wake-Up", "Ice Age"

Track listing for Welcome Oblivion:
  • The Wake-Up
  • Keep It Together
  • And the Sky Began To Scream
  • Welcome Oblivion
  • Ice Age
  • On the Wing
  • Too Late, All Gone
  • How Long?
  • Strings and Attractors
  • We Fade Away
  • Recursive Self-Improvement
  • The Loop Closes
  • Hallowed Ground

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Quite strange that early on in your review you say, 'Reznor, alongside his Social Network collaborator Atticus Ross, has managed to put together some of the most engaging arrangements we've heard from him in some time.' Yet, you gave the album a mediocre score of 5.5 out of 10.

Not sure what to make of your review. In my opinion 'And The Sky Began To Scream' is actually one of the best and most atmospheric tracks on the album. 'Welcome Oblivion' does take more than one listen to fully appreciate that's for sure.