When the world has been waiting for so long, it’s about time Trent Reznor returned to form and released a project as good as Not the Actual Events is. For a five track EP, Nine Inch Nails (a duo of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross in its current incarnation) have no right for for this new release to be this great. With modern industrial music mainly expressed through the noise/punk-rap of acts such as Death Grips and Kanye West, Not the Actual Events is a captivating listen that captures the roots of industrial metal.
Branches / Bones opens with a static bassline that quickly gets stuck in your head; accompanied by rattling kicks and synthetic drum beats, this track evokes the classic blend of industrial rock and synthpop that Nine Inch Nails are loved for. Branches / Bones is a wall of sound. Reznor howls throughout the chorus over layers of thick and noisy distorted guitar shredding, returning to the subdued verse as quickly as they power into the hook.
Dear World, sees Reznor adopting whispery vocals over a synthpop style beat with heavy percussion and ambient synthesisers in what seems like Nine Inch Nails’ industrial ode to krautrock. While the track drags on in places, additional layers of electronic ambience build an atmosphere that reconciles Reznor’s signature industrial style with his experiments with dark ambient in the Ghosts series.
She’s Gone Away is melancholy, dark, and trippy, another slower paced track that reinvents their industrial sensibilities. Reznor evokes the spirit of Peter Murphy and Bauhaus in his gloomy droning vocals, wailing over steady drum echoes. What seems like Not the Actual Events‘ most subdued performance sees synthesisers join Reznor later in the track amidst his lush atmosphere of industrial turned shoegaze.
The Idea of You is easily this project’s most straightforward track – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Opening with a repetitive guitar riff and heavy drums, The Idea of You is an industrial metal anthem. Misty piano tones accompany the verses, but Reznor abandons this for the chorus, growling and upping the ante with powerful industrial aggression.
The final track, Burning Bright (Field on Fire), is another piece of ambient industrial rock that showcases Reznor’s and Ross’ compositional skills, while at the same time exposing their faults. Despite thick layers of sound and always something new to be found within its dense composition, this final track drags on in places and is only saved by bridges later in the song that provide a break from the constant hums and drones throughout.
Not the Actual Events isn’t another Pretty Hate Machine or Downward Spiral (and for a five track EP, no one can expect that), but it’s a powerful reminder that Reznor and Nine Inch Nails are still out there and have made a triumphant return to form. At the end of this EP’s twenty-one minutes, listeners are left with two things; an abrasive ringing in their ears, and a hunger for the next Nine Inch Nails project.