Nine Inch Nails – Bad Witch
If the first installment of this trilogy of EPs was the sound of Trent Reznor reeling at the state of the world and the second had him investigating how we got here, then the conclusions he presents with the third and final chapter make for grim listening
Bad Witch has a more palpable vein of nihilism coursing through it than perhaps any Nine Inch Nails release since the seminal The Downward Spiral; 'We just can’t help ourselves,' Trent Reznor roars on the glitchy, discomfiting Ahead of Ourselves, whilst on opener Shit Mirror, he sarcastically dismisses the self-importance of the human race – 'New world, new times / Mutation, feels all right.' Musically, though, there’s a sense of measure to Bad Witch; as with EPs Not the Actual Events and Add Violence before it, it’s all the better for only making the occasional descent into full-on sonic hellishness (here, it’s Play the Goddamned Part, with its swirling maelstrom of off-kilter brass).
Of late, Reznor has routinely sounded every bit as appalled by the state of the music industry as he seems to be with the people around him, from his disillusioned departure from his position at Apple to the fact that he’s insisting on designating Bad Witch as an album, because EPs get lost on streaming services when they’re classed as singles. His passion for pushing musical boundaries, though, remains fierce, and never more so than now has the influence of his mentor, David Bowie, weighted so heavily on a Nine Inch Nails release. Live, the band have been covering both the pair’s 1997 crossover I’m Afraid of Americans – never more apt – and the last track from Bowie’s last album, I Can’t Give Everything Away.
The highlight here is the remarkable God Break Down the Door, which takes its cues not just from Lazarus but also, more to the point, Bowie’s unloved 1995 LP Outside, the tour for which Nine Inch Nails opened, and during which Bowie and Reznor bonded. It’s all noisy beats and mournful saxophone, with a soulful vocal turn, and it’s a stirring testament to Reznor’s ongoing relevance.
Listen to: God Break Down the Door, Ahead of Ourselves