Add Violence – Nine Inch Nails

Release Year: 2017

Rating: 8.5/10

Nine Inch Nails’ Not the Actual Events EP, the first in a trilogy, wasn’t the fury and fire we expected. While it wasn’t bad, it wasn’t all that memorable. The songs were decent and the mood was forced aggression. But with Add Violence, the second EP, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross hit their stride. They give us a record that successfully mixes new NIN ventures with the challenging and often chilling songs they’re known for. The result is ugly, unpleasant, and unfriendly, something Reznor actually wanted. But this doesn’t mean the EP is bad; it may be the best they’ve given us since their return.

Reznor lulls you into a safe space with opening track “Less Than.” Not as compelling as other songs, it’s the most accessible. It has catchy synth heavy music reminiscent of old school video games that makes you dance. The memorable hook doesn’t hurt either. The song gets a kick to the gut during the chorus when the music explodes in distortion. It’s reminiscent of Hesitation Marks sound and while it may not grab you at first, it grows on you over time. The mood shifts when we get to “The Lovers.” The music starts out quiet with an atmospheric air that slowly builds up around Reznor’s unnerving muted vocals. There’s a sense of unease with this song – the music creeps along as if waiting for something bad to happen. And lyrics like “Please don’t leave me here/I could stop it/Maybe I could stop it (if I wanted to)/But I’m not the one driving anymore” are haunting. It sounds like someone trying to regain control as they’re slowly losing it. It’s a great song that sets up the EP’s uneasy mood.

The stand out track on this EP is the chilling “This Isn’t the Place.” It opens on a fragile, haunting note with an eerie piano and synth that’s constantly swelling. It keeps you on edge letting you wonder where the song is headed next. It finally breaks when we get to Reznor’s fragile, broken falsetto vocals. He sounds scared as he sings “I thought we had more time” a harrowing reminder that life is short. Soon, the music swells once again drowning out Reznor and leaving you shaken. It’s a track that’s uncomfortable and unnerving, something NIN excels at.

Not Anymore” breaks up the atmospheric mood and gets back to the rougher side of NIN. The music starts out fuzzy and rough sounding before everything explodes and speeds up during the hook. This is more akin to their typical sound since it’s bursting with energy and aggression. While it’s not as unnerving as some of the other tracks, it’s the hardest one on the EP. It’s a frantic track that gets your heart pumping and your fists in the air like every good NIN song should.

The final track “The Background World” gets into the ugliness Reznor wanted to tap into. Clocking in at 11 minutes, the first half of the track has an electronic soundscape steadily building up to something heavier and darker. The last seven minutes are filled with an electronic loop that gets more distorted and garbled as time goes on. Everything gets more broken up until you can’t recognize the music anymore. It’s a compelling, yet uncomfortable experience. It’s easy to stop the song before it reaches this part, but it’d sound incomplete without it. Somehow Reznor managed to make this wall of noise an integral part of the song rather than unnecessary garbage to fill up the record.

Add Violence is a moody, atmospheric experience that shows Reznor can still make compelling music this late in his career. Whereas the previous EP sounded like blind fury and aggression that didn’t leave a lasting impression, this EP successfully mixes the old and the new. It’s a record to get lost in and once you come out, you’re left shaken. Reznor succeeds in giving us music that’s uncomfortable, which is where NIN shines. It’s clear that NIN is working up to something bigger and with this release. We’ll be waiting eagerly to see what it is.

Mini Update: Break Time!

Hey guys! Just a little update on what’s going on this week. I’ll be taking a break! I realized I hadn’t taken a real, nice long break from writing in a long time and I’m feeling burnt out. So this means there will be no playlist this month. I just had too much going on and didn’t get a chance to work on it. I figured it was best to let it go at least for this month. But tomorrow there will be a new review and when I return the first part of a Rank the Videos list is coming. So stay tuned for that!

And again, thanks for everyone who stops by and checks out the site. It really means a lot to me. I know updates are a lot slower than they’ve been in the past, so thanks for being patient. ❤

 

Playlist: Room Service

Hotels can be strange places. While they can represent a lavish lifestyle and living in the lap of luxury, they’re also mysterious, unsettling, and creepy. Why else do you think so many horror movies take place in them? Musicians spend most of their time in and out of hotel rooms around the world, so there are plenty of songs about hotels out there. While some of them view the hotel as a place of comfort or even a wild night, others see it as something mysterious and unnerving. Here are some of the more notable songs about hotels and what happens behind closed doors.

“Hotel Yorba” – The White Stripes

This early White Stripes song features the name of a real hotel in the band’s hometown of Detroit. They actually recorded the single version of this song in room 206 of the hotel. When they wanted to film the video inside the hotel, they weren’t allowed to and used various exterior shots instead. Upon initial release, the song was a hit in England before it was embraced stateside. Now, it’s considered a fan favorite, though for some reason I always disliked this song. Something about the bluegrass and the jaunty melody of the “1, 2, 3, 4” hook was annoying to me.

“Room 13” – Black Flag

Here we see a man on the brink of losing control. He’s at the point of snapping and is not sure whether or not he can make it in the world. At the same time, he wants to live and keeps begging for someone to “keep me alive/I don’t know if I can do it.” The song is brash, in your face, and outright brutal, much like Black Flag themselves. Not only is the song aggressive it leaves you wondering, what the hell is room 13? It’s never mentioned and leaves your mind to wander. Is it part of an insane asylum or prison? We’re never sure. All we know for sure is this guy is about to lose it.

“Hotel” – Cassidy ft. R. Kelly

Anybody actually remember the rapper, Cassidy? Probably not, but in 2003 he had one of the hottest hip hop songs. With R. Kelly by his side, Cassidy talks about using lush hotels to hold lavish parties and convince hotties to creep up to his hotel room. It’s similar to Chingy’s “Holidae In” and Cassidy knows this as he makes references to both that song and the iconic “Rapper’s Delight.” Honestly, it sounds like your typical rap song, but what made this one a hit was the unforgettable hook. Even if you didn’t really like the song you couldn’t help but sing the R. Kelly laced hook. You gotta admit, the man knows how to make earworm hooks.

“Room 21” – Hinder

I always saw Hinder as a sleazy band and they prove it with this song.  Sounding like a Motley Crue song, the band talks about being seduced by an irresistible woman and having a wild night in room 21. When the guy comes to the next morning, the mysterious woman is gone. He’s been used, but it was so good he doesn’t care. It’s the classic tale of excess, sex, and partying. It’s clearly meant to be a fun night to remember instead of a cautionary tale like the other songs on this list.

“Heartbreak Hotel (This Place Hotel)” – Michael Jackson

One of Jackson’s best and underrated songs, it’s about a strange hotel designed to break up couples. In it, the protagonist talks about taking his lover to what he thought would be a romantic night out and instead ends in heartache. The hotel implants two women in his room implying he’s cheating on his lover. He can’t convince her otherwise and he’s left alone. The upbeat music, Jackson’s wails, and the catchy hook distracts you from how weird this song is. A hotel made to break up couples? Just shows you never know what’s happening behind closed doors. To make the song even stranger the song title was later changed to “This Place Hotel” to avoid confusion with the Elvis Presley song.

“Room 309” – Creeper

If you’ve been following Creeper, then you’d know about the major story running across two EPs and their debut album. In a nutshell, the story follows the Callous Heart cult, the stranger, and paranormal investigator James Scythe trying to piece it all together. Room 309 is where James stays at The Dolphin Hotel in Southampton, UK. The story is so massive, it’s best to you check it all out here. As for the song itself, it’s one of the heaviest on the album and packs a major punch, showing off Creeper’s heavier side.

“Twilight Hotel” – Quiet Riot

This quintessential 80s rock band takes us to the titular hotel where “anything goes” and your wildest fantasies will be fulfilled. Frontman Kevin DuBrow sings about a “secret rendezvous” in this place that seems too good to be true. Even though it holds unbridled pleasures, there’s still an air of apprehension about the place. Appearing on their third album, QIII, the song is a typical rock ballad filled with big hooks and shredding guitars. Surprisingly, it’s not as sappy or cheesy as other ballads of the era.

“Room 409” – Bullet For My Valentine

Sometimes you don’t want to know what’s waiting for you in a room as this Bullet song explains. Frontman Matt Tuck sings about a guy walking into Room 409 and finding his girlfriend with another man. Rather than walking out the door, he goes in upset and ready to unleash his violent rage. It’s clear things aren’t going to end well with Tuck singing “[You] said his name and I came in your direction /Now I can choose what to do with both of you.” This territory isn’t new for Bullet. They have lots of songs about getting revenge on a cheating lover, but this one is probably their best.

“Chelsea Hotel #2” – Leonard Cohen

There are plenty of songs about the infamous Chelsea Hotel, but this one is about a once in a lifetime meeting. In 1968, Leonard Cohen was staying at the New York hotel working on his music. At 3 AM he ran into a woman in the elevator and proceeded to strike up a conversation. Turns out, the woman was none other than Janis Joplin. They apparently spent the night together, but their affair would be forgotten in the morning. Cohen penned this song about their meeting in 1971 not too long after her death. It’s a bittersweet account of a night spent together that’s all too fleeting.

“Hotel California” – The Eagles

The mother of all hotel songs. You can’t have a hotel playlist without this Eagles classic.

Condolences – Wednesday 13

 

Release Year: 2017

Rating: 7.5/10

When Wednesday 13 revealed his next album, I didn’t have high hopes. I knew I was going to give it a listen, but I didn’t expect to like it aside from maybe one song. His last record, Monsters of the Universe: Come Out and Plague, was forgettable and found him talking about the same things he has been years, but in a boring way. The album didn’t grip me like some of his others. After listening to Condolences, I was surprised at just how much I liked it. Yes, he’s still singing about dead girls and spooky things, but he takes on a dark theme that makes the music fresh and exciting.

Rather than singing about horror movies and spooky themes in general, this album is drenched in death. The brief intro, “Eulogy XIII” brings in the dark tones and more serious matter of the album. Things properly kick off with “What the Night Brings.” It’s typical 13 affair with music suited for a black and white horror film that’s hard hitting and exciting. “Blood Sick” is another rager with 13 playing the bad guy once again, something he’s good at. Not only do these songs stand out, they show off the heavier tone of the album.

Wednesday 13 takes things up a notch by gearing towards a heavy metal sound. Not that he hasn’t played with this in the past, but his songs usually fall somewhere between punk rock and hard rock. Here, everything is cranked up leaving you with memorable songs. The heavy music really draws you in and keeps your attention, whereas previous efforts lose you after a few songs.

“Cadaverous,” the strongest song the album, finds 13 returning to his favorite topic: necrophilia. It’s heavy and is brutal as hell. He sounds sinister as he sings “Full moon tonight alright/I’ve got some sick thoughts on my mind/On to your grave site/I’m digging in to see what I can find.” The trudging riffs and intense nature give the whole thing this vicious vibe as if 13 is in a rage with nothing safe in his path.

“You Breathe, I Kill” and “Prey for Me” are violent rampages written from the point of view of a serial killer. They have a similar aggressive, brutal vibe as the rest of the album, but still kicks major ass. “Good Riddance” is more personal being about the death of a relationship, while “Omen Amen” is a throwback to when the religious right feared heavy metal was the devil’s music. Death looms in all these songs making for a slightly more serious endeavor. They also scratch that heavy metal itch when you just want music that’s unapologetic and loud as hell.

Because of the coherent theme, it seems 13 held back on the campy aspect for this album. Normally, his records are filled with over-the-top songs that are fun but can cross the line into downright cheesy. There’s little of that here. While I wouldn’t call his lyrics deep, they are a bit more serious and focused here. It’s a nice change of pace from overt campiness that makes your eyes rolls. Normally, I can’t stand to listen to his albums in full. This time I gladly listened to the whole thing on repeat.

There are a few low points here with one being “Cruel to You.” This sounds like classic Wednesday 13 all the way right down to the music, but it’s so boring. Once again, he spouts about being the boogeyman and stalking a young woman, a topic he’s very familiar with. This song so tiring because it sounds exactly like what he’s done in the past. Everything from the music to the melody sounds like a better 13 song you’ve heard before. Plus, it really doesn’t fit the dark tone of the album.

As always, 13 shows off his sentimental side with a few ballads. “Condolences” has awesome music that sounds like a funeral march, which is very fitting for the gloomy vibe. But weaknesses start to show in the verses, which are half-whispered, half-sung. They’re just not that interesting. The hook is strong and makes the track bearable. Otherwise, it’s okay at best. The closing track “Death Infinity” suffers the same problems as his other ballads. He lays it on real thick and before we get to the second verse, you’re ready to move on. It’s over the top and dull like his other slow songs. Then again, I’ve never been a fan of these types of songs.

Condolences is a solid record. I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. I didn’t even plan on reviewing it. Wednesday 13 finds a good balance between moving towards a darker, heavier sound while keeping his classic vibe. Not every song is great, but the album is a lot of fun, even though it’s about death. Many of the songs are memorable, unlike his last effort. For once I found I could sit through the entire album, multiple times without getting sick of it. 13 steps up his game for this release proving the old ghoul still has some spooky tricks up his sleeve.

Musical Rant: My Distant Relationship with Blink-182

My relationship with Blink-182 has been strained ever since Matt Skiba took over for Tom DeLonge. Nothing against him; the guy actually gels really well with the band. But no matter how many times I listen to their newer stuff, I just can’t get into it.

The band isn’t the same to me. Though I didn’t hate California, I quickly grew tired of it and after my initial review, I haven’t listened to any of the songs since. I was baffled with the deluxe version boasting a second disc with what boils down to another album. With every preview and song they released, I slowly realized I didn’t care. But I was still mildly curious about the second disc and gave it a listen. I was surprised I liked it more than the original album, but it also drove home how much I don’t care about this band anymore.

When the band announced California Deluxe, I didn’t get it. Why reissue an album that’s not even a year old? And if they had so much material, why not release it on its own? It didn’t make sense to me. Whereas in the past, the thought of an expanded Blink album would be amazing, this time it felt pointless. Still, I was curious to see if the new music was worth it. And it’s not bad. None of the songs are outright terrible, but very few managed to grip me. “Misery” was okay, but felt like I was reading cringe-worthy teen poetry, “Good Old Days” has a strong hook and great energy, but is tiring due to the overused “let’s get nostalgic” theme. “Don’t Mean Anything” is repetitive and weak when compared to the rest of the songs and “Hey I’m Sorry” is forgettable, but has a good energy and vibe. And “Can’t Get You More Pregnant” is just dumb and pointless.

Still, most of the songs have more substance than those on California. Though most of them aren’t that interesting, they aren’t generic. They feel genuine, even the ones that sound like teen angst. Reading through the lyrics I didn’t roll my eyes nearly as much as I did with the previous LP. Even though I didn’t like most of the songs, I can stand to hear them, as long as they don’t deal with looking back (“Parking Lot”). It’s a trend Blink’s been on that I’m sick of. I get it, they’re older, they want to reflect, but we already got that with California. Let’s move on.

Luckily, there’s some promise to the album. “Wildfire” and “Bottom of the Ocean” are great songs – probably the best of the new Blink era. Some of these songs remind you of older Blink – lots of fun, great fast music, and a good hook. “6/8” is a standout song that’s heavy as hell. It almost sounds like a b-side from Untitled. Everything about it is awesome from the in your face aggression to the way Matt sounds like he’s screaming from miles away. The odd 6/8 structure really helps the song stand out and creates this cool, yet odd, flow.

So yeah, I like the second disc better than California. At the same time, I realize I don’t care what Blink does anymore. I couldn’t even find much to say about this release. Whereas before I would relish any news involving them and devour every single song they released, I didn’t give a shit this time. They kept posting songs from the Deluxe version and I ignored them. Their new stuff doesn’t hit that sweet spot. With Tom, they had a style all their own. Now, they sound like every other “pop-punk” band out there. Seeing their name doesn’t bring about that same sense of excitement. Rather, it’s more of a disappointment.

Though many disagree, I still think Tom is an essential part of the band. He had a certain sound and vibe that Blink is currently lacking. They just don’t sound the same. They’re different now and that’s okay. They are allowed to change and I’m happy the band is continuing to make music. It’s just not for me. I can’t exactly say if my missing Tom is what makes me dislike their new stuff; maybe it does. All I know is I don’t feel that same happiness and excitement when I hear them now. Maybe over time, this will change and I see these albums in a more favorable light. But I can’t pretend that I care about what’s going on with them now. They can still make exciting music as some of the songs show, but they’re still trying to find the right direction. I will always love Blink-182, but at this point, I’m moving on.