Album review: How to Destroy Angels’ ‘How to Destroy Angels’

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Post-NIN, Angels kick up goth beat

Last year Trent Reznor announced that he was retiring Nine Inch Nails, his groundbreaking industrial-rock outfit, as a touring band. This six-song EP by How to Destroy Angels — a new trio featuring Reznor, his wife Mariqeen Maandig and frequent Reznor collaborator Atticus Ross — suggests that the NIN drawdown had less to do with Reznor’s road fatigue and more to do with a return to the pleasures of recording: With its tick-tocking death-disco beats and its precisely designed blasts of digital fuzz, “How to Destroy Angels” might be the best-sounding work Reznor has ever done. Few musicians get as much feeling out of electronic equipment as he does.

Yet as songs go, tracks such as “The Space in Between,” “Fur-Lined” and the seven-minute “A Drowning” rank among Reznor’s least compelling; even with Maandig’s appealingly breathy vocals, they often seem like outtakes from NIN’s recent instrumental set, “Ghosts I-IV.” One exception is “BBB,” in which Maandig (a former member of L.A.'s West Indian Girl) coos, “Listen to the sound of my big black boots,” over a funky electro-goth groove punctuated by what appears to be a group of foot soldiers on the move. It’s the rare moment that combines Reznor’s old tune-craft with some of his old humor.

— Mikael Wood

How to Destroy Angels
“How to Destroy Angels”
(The Null Corporation)
Two and a half stars

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