Nine Inch Nails have now released a ninth studio album, Hesitation Marks. By trying to reach out to a larger audience, Trent Reznor has compiled an eclectic mix of his usual standard fair and some songs that feel like a departure for this experienced musician. This has created a more commercially viable album, something that Reznor has not done in some time. With Year Zero, Reznor began releasing his music on his own and has now gone back to a major studio for the release of Hesitation Marks. How this new release stacks up, may depend on your tastes.
Major Studio Equals Major Fanfare
If Trent Reznor was looking for a way to branch out, then he succeeded. Hesitation Marks contain a more diverse ensemble of tracks. Perhaps going a bit more mainstream was just what Reznor needed to get back into his old form. This is not to say that we are in for more of the same old Nine Inch Nails. Hesitation Marks feature starker sounds, providing a more subdued atmosphere.
Basically, Reznor has taken what has worked in the past, stripped it down to its bare minimum, and then rebuilt it with a lot less layers. One of the finest songs on the album, “Copy of A”, brings this point home. While there are other tracks on the album that follow this same approach, there is a little bit of variety.
We can go from the subdued sounds of “Copy of A” to the more upbeat sounds of “Satellite” and the straight up rock song “Everything” – which marks the middle of the album. The second half of Hesitation Marks veer dangerously close to providing filler, featuring songs that do not really stand out among the first half.
Trent Reznor Has Grown as a Musician
Something that really stands out in this album is the maturity that Reznor brings with it. The whole album, and its lyrics, tends to paint a picture of a middle-aged man that has moved on beyond the angst filled songs of years past. This is almost a family friendly album, containing no references to drugs, alcohol, or major themes of depression. Abandoning his earlier themes makes sense, as it has been almost twenty years since the release of Downward Spiral. As Reznor has grown, so has his audience. Teens that were thrashing to Downward Spiral are now approaching middle-age. Even though Hesitation Marks is a more mature album, Reznor does not alienate the younger generation. There are plenty of songs that should appeal to people of all ages – allowing Nine Inch Nails to be able to reach a larger audience.
In the end, it all pays off. Hesitation Marks mark the return of Nine Inch Nails in a big way. To connect this album to earlier work, Nine Inch Nails have brought Russell Mills back to design the cover art. Mills designed the cover of Downward Spiral and has created a similar look for Hesitation Marks. Whether you are already a fan of Nine Inch Nails or are looking for something new, be sure to give Hesitation Marks a try.