Album Review: Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks

Score: 7.5/10

Album release date: September 3, 2013

Published by Joe Stadele on August 29, 2013

Trent Reznor never said Nine Inch Nails was over with. He did indicate a much needed break from NIN and couldn’t continue in the capacity he was; that being a 24/7 touring and producing juggernaut.  Reznor took a break but never really went away.  So what has Reznor done with all of this downtime the past four years?  Marriage, two children, two movie soundtracks (The Social Network and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo), formed How To Destroy Angels (which includes his wife Mariqueen Maandig, producer Atticus Ross and artist Rob Sheridan) and released two ep’s and an album and then toured with HTDA.  Reznor also made time to contribute to albums by Queens of the Stone Age and Dave Grohl’s Sound City Soundtrack. To cap it all off, Reznor was also recording the new Nine Inch Nails album, Hesitation Marks.

There is no mistaking Hesitation Marks as anything other than a Nine Inch nails album with hints of the past all over.  Electronic drumloops recall Pretty Hate Machine.  Guitar flourishes reminiscent of The Downward Spiral and The Fragile.  Quieter moments feel contemporary of With Teeth, Year Zero and “Hurt”.  Listen upon listen, Hesitation Marks feels a contemporary and antithesis to the past.

Hesitation Marks is also the loosest and most, dare I say, optimistic Nine Inch Nails album to date.  There is/was a fan-made video (which has since been removed due to “copyright infringement”) circulating the internet of Carlton Banks of The Fresh Prince of Bel Aire swaying and dancing across the living room while Reznor riding a unicorn.  Though it’s meant to be comical, in hind sight, it really isn’t that far from the truth. The track it parodies, “Everything”, signals Reznor at his happiest as he sings, “I survived everything…wave goodbye, wish me well, I’ve become something else…I am home, I am free.” Which leads me to my next point.

Though Hesitation Marks doesn’t completely remove itself from the past, musically, it stands as Reznor’s album of transformation; optimistic, self aware over self-doubt, and choosing hope.  Reznor’s first words of the album include, “I am just a copy of a copy of a copy….I am just a shadow of a shadow of a shadow…I am just an echo of an echo of an echo”.  In these words Reznor wants the listener to understand, “Hey look, my past is a part of who I am and I carry that with me, but I am a different man now.” During “Various Methods of Escape”, Reznor sings, “I’ve got to let go, I’ve got to get straight.”

Musically, HM is an interesting listen from beginning to end.  The 53 second opener, “The Eater of Dreams”, is reminiscent of “Pinion”; building off a tap and squeal which almost sound like an old rusty door rotating back and forth on its hinge as white noise builds underneath.  “Disappointment” hosts a jumping and handclapping 808 drum loop met with drones of noise as Reznor coos over the top (brother track “Running” offers a similar vibe with a galloping drum loop).  “Everything” is Hesitation Marks largest upbeat departure.  “Satellite” is the album at its slickest and most sinister; a sleek and instant favorite. “Find My Way” and “Various Moments of Escape” recall “La Mer” and “The Great Below” off of  1999’s The Fragile mixed with hints of With TeethHesitation Marks’ sexiest moment may very well be the 22-second Bowiesque saxophone insert during “While I’m Still Here”.  It’s the first substantial saxophone inclusion in his catalog and leaves you wishing for more.

As with all things Reznor, it is in your own best interest to not judge the whole based on the single.  Upon initial listens, Hesitation Marks lacks the aggressive nature of past albums and may not live up to initial fan expectations which have been  memorialized by time, HOWEVER, in time Hesitation Marks should prove to be a pivotal document in an incredible catalog.

Hesitation Marks is available September 3rd, 2013 on CD, Vinyl and Audiophile HD with a variety of cover art. Nine Inch Nails officially kickoff the Tension 2013 tour Sept 28th in Minneapolis, MN.  Click here for a list of tour dates.

Buy it now:

NIN Hesitation Marks Download NIN Hesitation Marks Vinyl

Hesitation Marks Tracklist

  1. The Eater of Dreams
  2. Copy of A
  3. Came Back Haunted
  4. Find My Way
  5. All Time Low
  6. Disappointed
  7. Everything
  8. Satellite
  9. Various Methods of Escape
  10. Running
  11. I Would for You
  12. In Two
  13. While I’m Still Here
  14. Black Noise

Produced by: Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, and Alan Moulder
Mixed by: Alan Moulder
Mastered by: Tom Baker
Artwork by: Russell Mills
Art Direction by: Rob Sheridan

Additional Musicians:
Pino Palladino
Lindsey Buckingham
Adrian Belew
Eugene Goreshter
Alessandro Cortini
Ilan Rubin
Joshua Eustis

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