The 30-minute album ‘Bad Witch’ is the third instalment of a trilogy of releases including the previous two EPs, ‘Not the Actual Events’ and ‘Add Violence.’ Like the previous two releases, there are hints of the classic Nine Inch Nails sound amongst the tracks, but they are broadly more in the realm of Noise and experimentation.
‘Bad Witch’ opens with some promise with the dirty, distorted Industrial rock of Shit Mirror. The track seems like it might even be club-friendly, even though it becomes noisy and discordant, and Trent Reznor’s vocals are often difficult to make out as they sound like they’re being yelled through a megaphone. There’s a little more vocal clarity in the murmured spoken word moments, but overall, the track pushes more towards the Noise genre as it goes along, making for uncomfortable listening. It does have some elements in common with 90s Industrial however, as it pairs at times almost celebratory beats with its dystopian lyrics.
‘Ahead of Ourselves’ starts out sounding like an odd amalgamation of the flavours of ‘Wish’ and ‘Year Zero.’ Heavy, distorted moments break through the relatively minimalist drum and vocal-led track, almost bringing to mind Marilyn Manson. The album then moves on to the low, rumbling bass of Play the Goddamned Part. This track feels deeper and more distant, with ominous ambient sound clearer in the mix than the bass in a sort of ‘Downward Spiral’ mode. The mood is creepy and unsettling, with a sense of building tension or anxiety. The clarity of the bass increases as it grows louder as the track goes on. At the same time, the soundscape becomes more chaotic, including an odd mix of brass instruments. As the bass and other sounds drop away to a cacophony of brass, the listener experiences Reznor at his most musically obscure. Even as the drums come back in, the track gets a little weirder, though much of the extraneous sound drops away to a lilting piano intrusion.
The brass continues to have a strong, eerie presence alongside the electronics and drumbeat in God Break Down the Door, while Reznor’s low, haunting vocals seem to draw on the spectre of Lou Reed. Deeper in the track slows to an oddly Noir-influenced feel, though it’s still discordant and uncomfortable before kicking into Industrial beats. Even here, the track retains the ephemeral brass and Reed-like vocals. A hint of classic Nine Inch Nails shines through towards the end of the track, but is soon drowned in the wave of noise.
Unfortunately there isn’t much to say about the final two tracks that drone through the next fourteen and a half minutes, the entire second half of the album. This is particularly true of I’m not from this World, a low, thrumming, ominous track reminiscent of some of Tool’s long and almost unlistenable passages.
Over and Out begins with more traditional, grooving Industrial beat with a nice bass roll. There’s still some brass weirdness going on here, with Reznor’s haunting keys in the background. The beat eventually fades out to an almost solo bass, with distant keys behind. Reznor’s haunting lamentations then enter, declaring that “Time is running out, I don’t know what I’m waiting for.” These words continue to weave through the track as it carries on in the same vein.
With this album, along with the two previous EPs, it’s clear that Reznor has a strong vision for his art – it’s just unfortunate that vision is often not particularly enjoyable, and at times not even particularly interesting. If this really is “over and out” from Reznor, at this point it might not be such a bad thing.
GET YOUR HANDS ON NINE INCH NAILS’ ‘BAD WITCH’ HERE!