Reznor and co. shine with new live album
The first seconds of Nine Inch Nails's first live album
are a staggering blast of noise. The chaos soon materializes into the
mechanical fury of "Terrible Lie." The band continues in a similar
vein through "Sin," then steps it up for "March of the
Pigs." Hyper-psychotic thrash metal destroys your eardrums for about
a minute and a half, then stops abruptly. A bright, catchy melody is played
on piano and singer Trent Reznor asks, "Now doesn't it make you feel
better?" Silence. Then the fury resumes.
And All That Could Have Been doesn't leave much to
be desired for the Nine Inch Nails fan. It's very loud. Instead of laboring
in a studio for two or three years, Reznor, with the help of his friends
and sometimes session players, bashed these tracks out in front of live
audiences on the Fragility V2.0 Tour. The frontman sets himself loose,
letting the music carry him and adding the f-word often.
The song selection on the album offers a graceful career
overview. NIN's 1989 industrial metal debut Pretty Hate Machine
and the screaming 1992 Broken EP are represented by three songs
each; the band's most successful record, the raw but catchy 1994 suicide
concept album The Downward Spiral, contributes four songs; and
Reznor's latest masterpiece, the critically-acclaimed 1999 double album
The Fragile contributes six.
The best part about Halo Seventeen, though, is the
bonus album. On the aptly-named Still, available in the deluxe 2-CD version
of And All That Could Have Been, Reznor does away with the noise.
He revisits four songs spanning his career and recasts them, as he is
apt to do on frequent remix albums like Further Down the Spiral
and Things Falling Apart. But instead of receiving new layers of
noise, these songs become close, spare, intimate, and breathing. "Something
I Can Never Have" is nothing but a piano and Reznor's voice for six
and a half minutes. On "The Fragile" and "The Becoming,"
Reznor yells into a vacuum.
Additionally, we get five new songs. Only one of these is
not an instrumental-the meditative "And All That Could Have Been."
But NIN's instrumentals are not to be dismissed; "Just Like You Imagined"
was possibly the best song on The Fragile. These soundscapes are
haunted by the atmospherics of Fragile tracks like "La Mer"
and "Ripe (With Decay)"-marimba, acoustic guitar, and programmed
sounds that are the result of those years in the studio. "And All
That Could Have Been" is the centerpiece of Still and a good sign
for the future, unlike the Tomb Raider soundtrack's "Deep,"
which was the worst song of NIN's career.
And All That Could Have Been is also available as a DVD. The video performance lacks "The Day the World Went Away" but adds three Fragile instrumentals-"Complication," "La Mer," and "Just Like You Imagined."