Album Review: How To Destroy Angels, “Welcome Oblivion”

“I’m sitting here listening to this album, getting more and more enthralled with each track. They have me right where they want me, lost in crash after crash of manipulated analogue wave forms, percussive electronic rhythms and haunting vocals. At times I won’t be able to tell where a song starts or begins; I’m just lost in this perfect storm of sound.”

How To Destroy Angels (HTDA) is the project of Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails), Mariqueen Maandig (Reznor’s wife), Rob Sheridan (the art director of NIN) and Atticus Ross (who helped produce the NIN albums “With Teeth,” “Year Zero,” “Ghosts I-IV” and “The Slip”). They will be releasing their debut album “Welcome Oblivion” March 5th on Columbia Records.

With the current boom of EDM, we’re often bombarded with cookie-cutter melodies and a rinse-and-repeat style of song structure. This record is a fresh dose of dark electronic music that takes us down a different road. Taking a drastic turn from cliche vocal tracks that mean nothing, HTDA loads its songs with a full helping of emotion and a set of lyrics that will get the average fan of electronic music thinking.

The opening track, “The wake-up,” perks our ears with a solid beat and a heavily distorted guitar riff, almost reminiscent of a darker version of the band Sleigh Bells. Though as if it was only to get our attention, the first song is quickly over, and the mood is completely reversed with the second track “Keep it together,” which keeps a steady beat and a heavy bass line — the kind of bass line you may hear in a movie where a group of psychotics are roaming the street in slow motion, trying not to let the world know what’s going on in their respective heads.

Songs like “And the sky begins to scream” and “Welcome to oblivion” give us steady grooves that reach powerful crescendos that will get any avid music fan on their feet. Unafraid to construct a beat out of strange clicks and beeps while assaulting our ears with distortion on both instruments and vocals, these two songs drive us deeper into the album.

With a similar feeling to your ears popping after getting off of the plane, “Ice age” gives us a break from the distorted bass and heavy beats with what sounds like a purely acoustic song accompanied by the lovely vocals of Maandig. Unknown until in that moment, this song was exactly what was needed to keep the record fresh and diverse.

“How long?” may be familiar to those who have seen its recently released music video directed by Shynola. This song stands out from the rest with its big sing-along-worthy chorus, which is easily committed to memory after a single listen. First impressions of this song were a bit underwhelming by some HTDA listeners, but after giving it some real time to sink in, and while listening to it as part of the full album, this has become one of the most powerful tracks on the record.

We are once again taken along on an overpowering rise and fall with “We fade away.” Starting off with a few, simple meditative beeps and quickly growing into a layered wall of repetitious vocals, bass notes and what sounds like the distorted wailing of a guitar in the background, this song will transport any listener into a world resembling the artwork made for the album. The haunting vocals “we once were great, we saturate, we fade away” kick the song into a strong, beat-driven ending, complete with one of Reznor’s signature piano melodies. The track fades to silence, and suddenly you wonder where the last eight minutes of your life went.

Nearing the end of the album, we are taken through almost purely instrumental tracks of experimental electronic music mixed with an occasional vocal line repeated through the crescendo. Showing off that each member is a true master of their craft, it’s like they’re seeking out new ways to come together and make music out of sounds that may not be considered the most musical in nature.

Closing out the album with “Hallowed ground,” a heavy 808 drum leads the way while, layer by layer, a build of wordless vocal harmonies, piano, pulsing bass and numerous sweeps of a distorted synth push the boundaries of what our speakers can handle. Finally bringing the song to a beautiful ending is a melody similar to the one found at the end of “Ice age,” sung by Maandig.

Consider me a ship wandering in the ocean, hoping to find something that can match the power of this album.

Previous How To Destroy Angels releases:

  • An Omen EP_ (2012)
  • How To Destroy Angels (2010)

How To Destroy Angels – The loop closes


For more information about How To Destroy Angels, visit: howtodestroyangels.com.oblivion.

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