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Album Review
Welcome Oblivion

Welcome Oblivion
by How To Destroy Angels

Sony Music

Review Date
14th March 2013
Reviewed by
Ricardo Kerr

Trent Reznor is a big name in music, one that always inspires interest no matter what the trailblazer may be up to. It is with this interest that many will come to experience his post-Nine Inch Nails project How To Destroy Angels where he is joined by Atticus Ross, Rob Sheridan (both Nine Inch Nails collaborators), and Mrs Reznor herself, Mariqueen Maandig - it will also be how they come to judge it. Over the course of two EPs (self-titled from 2010 and An Omen in 2012) they have laid down the groundwork for their sonic manifesto: chilly electronics, soothing female vocals, and a nameless wordless sense of dread. Now they have unleashed Welcome Oblivion unto the world, their debut full length album, and even before it existed it was an entity burdened by some fairly heavy expectations which it struggles to overcome.

Despite the loaded album title, Welcome Oblivion is not an exercise in nihilistic bloodletting (a la The Downwards Spiral) or neo-political angst (Year Zero). It is a record that embraces the oblivion of uncertainty and jilted assumptions. A more collaborative project than NIN where Reznor rules the roost, he cedes lead vocal duties to his wife, with him acting as the primary songwriter and backup singer instead. While it is interesting to see how Reznor's style interplays with others in a more collaborative environment you are left in little doubt that he works best when fully in charge. The album seems to suffer from not having that singular guiding vision behind it; driving and molding it into shape. A line like “I can't keep it together” (from 'Keep It Together') probably didn't even know how profound it was when it was written - it seems to underline both the promise of the album and its key stumbling block. The album has a meandering quality to it with many songs never gaining traction, never fully settling on one thing before it drifts off to the next. Is there anything more frustrating than being unable to recall the song you have just heard because it failed to leave a lasting impression?

While many of these tracks are willing to toe the line and avoid drawing too much attention to themselves, others upset the applecart in style and help to remind us of why we liked the ever unpredictable Reznor in the first place. The spooky 'Ice Age' defies logic with its use of acoustic instruments and organic percussion; an oasis of what passes for normality among all the alienating electronica. 'The Loop Closes' is a dead ringer for a remix of the eternally potty-mouthed 'Closer' (The Downward Spiral) and you are left constantly expecting a profane chorus to explode out of it that never comes. Ultimately the album is simply too long, winding down in a largely instrumental coda, and all together too indecisive about what it wants to achieve. This is not a bad album at all - it does after all feature some excellent musical minds - and if 'feel bad' music is your thing then this will certainly do the trick.


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