In early 2008, things have gotten crazy in the world of Nine Inch Nails as its leader Trent Reznor in March of 2008 released a double instrumental album entitled Ghosts I-IV on the Internet. With prices ranging from $5 to $300 depending audio formats as well as deluxe versions of the album, the release was an immediate success with over 780,000 transactions made with $1.6 million in revenue. With fans salivating over the dark, ambient industrial album, Reznor’s newfound freedom away from major labels have prove to be fruitful as a revolution is emerging where major acts are leaving major labels to release their own music directly to the fans on the Internet. Yet, just as fans seem to get comfortable in Reznor’s new album, they were in for another shock as when in mid-April around the time Ghosts I-IV was released on retail. A message occurred in the band’s website with the words "two weeks".
The last time those words were uttered was in late February of 2008 and what came out was the release of Ghosts I-IV as when those words appeared again, fans wondered if Reznor is releasing more new material. In early April 2008, pictures emerged of Trent Reznor plus longtime collaborators Atticus Ross and Alan Moulder along with members of the NIN live band appeared. Rumors appeared that Reznor is releasing a new record and immediately since those messages occurred, a song was released to radio while another came out through a Facebook application. The big news on May 5, 2008 aka Cinco de Mayo at 12AM Pacific Time was unveiled. A new NIN album entitled The Slip has emerged and it’s for free from the band’s website at various audio formats.
Written by Trent Reznor, The Slip is an album that features a wide mix of seven songs and three instrumental tracks that stretches a wide variety of the musical style Reznor has done whether its rockers, pop-inspired tunes, art-rock, and instrumentals. The album also returns Reznor to his introspective lyrical territory filled with angst after leering away from that for Year Zero and Ghosts I-IV while also reaching outside of his niche. Produced by Reznor, Alan Moulder, and Atticus Ross, the album also includes performances from members of Reznor’s current live band including drummer Josh Freese, keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Alessandro Cortini, and returning the line-up from the days of The Downward Spiral and The Fragile, guitarist Robin Finck. While not as consistent as classic albums like Pretty Hate Machine, Broken, The Downward Spiral, The Fragile, and Year Zero. The Slip is still a strong, powerful album from Trent Reznor and NIN that has something for everyone and most of all, the NIN fans.
The album opener is a one-minute, twenty-five second instrumental intro entitled 999,999 that features a wind-like background that shimmers as warbling bass appears along with a swirling yet hypnotic synthesizer line. The momentum of the track builds up with the bass becoming louder and more squealing as it segues into the first song 1,000,000. Armed with a hard-hitting drum track by Josh Freese and fuzz-rocking guitar tracks by Robin Finck, the song is NIN at their most aggressive as Reznor bites into his smooth croon yet growling vocal style as he gets into confrontational mode. With Alessandro Cortini belting out squealing electronics, the whole song goes into rocking mode with Finck and Reznor’s guitar and Reznor’s fearful yet numbing lyrics.
Letting You is a faster yet pulsating track with fast-charging beats and shimmering guitars with bass-fuzz electronics courtesy of Cortini. Then Reznor goes into his growling yet distorted lyrics that is reminiscent in the style of fellow industrial compatriots Ministry. With a catchy chorus of "We are letting you get away", the song explores Reznor’s political leanings as he delves into the failure of the world around him. With Finck’s accompanying guitar, it’s truly one of the most sinister tracks on the album. The first single is the wonderfully catchy Discipline with its thumping back beat, smooth bass groove, and snarling fuzz guitar, it’s definitely one of Reznor’s best singles. The song features great yet catchy lyrics the explores Reznor’s fragility and desperation yet with its sexy back beat by Josh Freese, it’s a song that has a lot of bite but also something that makes it okay to dance to.
Echoplex is a smooth yet complex song that harkens back to the artiness of Reznor with its sputtering drum machine and a warbling guitar track from Robin Finck as Reznor explores claustrophobia in this song with eerie description and a moody background by Cortini’s keyboards. The track is definitely another example of Reznor’s genius in setting a mood and lyrical imagery that is accessible yet abstract at the same time. Head Down opens with a smooth yet rollicking drum track by Freese and snarling guitar fuzzes by Robin Finck as Reznor growls through the song as he explores his theme of fear as it features a hypnotic yet shimmering chorus. With Finck and Reznor’s guitars still maintaining its snarl, it’s definitely a great song that shows Reznor’s complexity in his songwriting where he can be dangerous but also sincere.
The piano-ballad Lights In The Sky is a smooth yet haunting piano ballad that has Reznor singing softly with deep piano notes as he delves into death with a somber yet elegant tone. While the song is a break from more rocking tracks, it emphasizes Reznor’s knack for melody and being stripped down both musically and lyrically where all he needed is a piano and vocals. Corona Radiata is an eerie, seven-and-a-half minute instrumental that opens with eerie, shimmering background of bass-like synthesizer winds, ambient tones, and melodic keyboard chimes. The track emphasizes the melancholia of its previous track only to add something haunting and mystical. With soft beats coming in the background after about four minutes, a dissonant, washy guitar emerges in the fifth minute with more fuzzy and swirling synthesizers and guitars.
The Four Of Us Are Dying is another instrumental track clocking in at four-and-a-half minutes that opens with sputtering beats from a drum machine as well as hi-hat taps by Josh Freese. A bass appears from Reznor as he plays a wobbly bass line in layer of electronic backgrounds by Reznor and Alessandro Cortini start to accompany the beats and Robin Finck’s melodic guitar plucking. The smooth instrumental intensifies a bit with more layering of backgrounds including a siren-like guitar track by Finck. Freese’s beats gets a bit louder and Finck’s guitar becomes more wailing as does the intensity of the electronics. The album closer is the rollicking Demon Seed led by Freese’s hard-hitting, warbling beating drums and fuzzy bass electronics by Cortini as it leads into a smooth yet thumping track. With Finck’s dissonant guitar, Reznor begins to sing silently as he sings lyrics of fragility as if he’s aware he’s about to fall apart. The track intensifies with Cortini playing a soft piano melody in the background as Finck’s washy guitar gets more intense as does Reznor’s vocals. With its shimmering electronic background and metal-like guitar wails, and Reznor’s swirling vocals as he sings the final verse through distortions.
While the album has all the hallmarks of what makes a NIN album unique. What it lacks in comparison to previous albums, notably The Downward Spiral, The Fragile, Year Zero, and more recently, Ghosts I-IV is consistency. Largely because the first half of The Slip with the exception of its opening track is mostly songs at either an upbeat tempo or mid-tempo. Then once it reaches Light In The Sky and the two instrumental tracks that followed, it becomes a different record of sorts. It’s flaw is that it’s a bit uneven. While some might accuse of Reznor being derivative musically or lyrically, repetitive. Those accusations were definitely true by the time With Teeth came out in 2005 where fans admittedly complained about the album’s lack of innovation and edginess.
In The Slip, Reznor brings a new maturity to his usual lyrical theme of fragility while also taking a brief detour to the lyrical tone of Year Zero with the song Letting You. The album’s title might seem to refer to Reznor, who had been sober for nearly five years, admittedly expressing his fear of slipping from his sobriety. Whether it’s in the first or third person, the complexity and imagery Reznor sings about is definitely relevant to today’s world of celebrity drug abuse and such. Musically, Reznor still has a knack for creating unique melodies and hooks while also delving into art-rock mode. While it may not be innovative, the album is definitely a huge step-up from With Teeth where things tend to sound familiar. In The Slip, Reznor sticks with what works while taking a few risks where the result is an album that has something for everyone.
Production wise, Reznor along with Alan Moulder and Atticus Ross is superb as the layering of guitars, synthesizers, and other instruments definitely work. Especially from the contributions of Josh Freese, Alessandro Cortini, and Robin Finck that adds a band-like sound to the album. Usually, it’s Reznor by himself and sometimes, input from other musicians with the exception of the last album Ghosts I-IV. With Moulder and Ross providing a production that isn’t too polished but not too raw, the quality of the album itself is worth noting for bringing surprises on when a song might stop or a song fading. The album is also the shortest among its full-length release at forty-three minutes and forty-five seconds where at 10 tracks, it does leave the listening wanting for more.
The contributions of Freese, Cortini, and Finck definitely add some excitement to the songs where Freese is noted session musician while Cortini is becoming a key collaborator in the same way that former members Chris Vrenna, Danny Lohner, and Charlie Clouser were in creating songs as he was given several songwriting credits in Ghosts I-IV. Then there’s Robin Finck, a live guitarist from The Downward Spiral and The Fragile, who had been working for Guns N’ Roses for some time returns to the NIN fold. This time around, the guitar contributions he brings are definitely true to the NIN sound as he’s given more room to play what he feels like. It’s another example of Reznor’s newfound openness to have musicians play around him that makes The Slip a real highlight.
If the album itself is a great example of Reznor’s growth as an artist. It’s nothing compared to the way Reznor is promoting the album. Whereas he released Ghosts I-IV on the Internet through the band’s official website with a price range of $0 for the first volume and $5 minimum for the whole album in a variety of digital formats and up to $300 for 2500 limited edition copies of an ultra-deluxe version. For the release of The Slip, Reznor essentially gave away the album for free. In his words, Reznor said "thank you for your continued and loyal support over the years-this one’s on me". Under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license, Reznor is allowing fans to download the album for free and to share it with other fans and also remixing it for free with multitrack files released through the band’s remix subsite.
For its release, the album is released in various digital formats that included the album’s artwork with lyrics and artwork also in the song files: high-quality MP3s, encoded with LAME at V0, fully tagged in 87 mb; FLAC lossless audio at 259 mb; Apple lossless audio in 263 mb; and the high definition WAVE 24/96 (1.2 gb), better-than-CD-quality 24 bit 96 kHz audio. A physical version of the album is set for release sometime in July through the Null Corporation.
While The Slip isn’t the best album by Nine Inch Nails, it’s still an exciting release from Trent Reznor and company that once again proves his staying power. While the album is no doubt something NIN fans will enjoy, those outside of the NIN circle will enjoy its sense of variety as it ventures into esoteric art rock as well as catchy rockers. With many artists slaving away in trying to create the right product for the public and for their label executives. Trent Reznor has proven that freedom can guarantee satisfaction both artistically and commercially without the use of a major label and other corporate promotional tools. In the end, The Slip is an insatiable album from Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails.
Halo 2-Pretty Hate Machine (1989):
Halo 5-Broken (1992):
Halo 8-The Downward Spiral (1994):
Halo 14-The Fragile (1999):
Halo 17-And All That Could Have Been/Still (2002):
Halo 19-With Teeth (2005):
Halo 24-Year Zero (2007):
Halo 26-Ghosts I-IV (2008):