Veteran of hard rock masters Nine Inch Nails, Trent Reznor side-steps from writing movie and game sound tracks to resume work with partner Mariqueen Maandig and long time collaborator Atticus Ross, with new member Rob Sheridan as How to Destroy Angels. After long hiatus, the angel destroyers have produced an atmospherically charged and highly individual EP, mixing rock, ambient, electronic, world music and folk. And it works.
The immaculately produced, stripped down sound does interesting things with rhythm and melody in unexpected combinations. You’ll find ‘Angels listed under Rock (it isn’t), ‘Post-Industrial’ (I still don’t know what ‘Industrial’ was apart from grungy guitars and clanging) and the delightfully vague ‘Experimental.’ I really don’t know how to categorise what they do and that gives me a huge lift; forget the 24/7 pop blanket, there is musical diversity out there if you know where to find it.
The EP – there are only six tracks, so not quite a full album – consists of track after track of pure atmosphere, reminiscent of Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, plus a raft of influences from later ambient pioneers, but it still adds up to a distinctive sound – almost a manifesto.
Keep it Together is a dark, dark ambient track that makes Portishead and Massive Attack sound like Millie Cyrus. Ice Age starts acoustic, with twangy, Appalachian folk guitar and Maandig’s light, melodic voice, but slowly winds up into a wave of industrial feedback.
On the Wing is more electro and percussive, but with a simple melody running through it.
The enigmatically titled The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters is pure ambient instrumental, invoking a dream state, spooky, without too many monsters. I expected it to get darker and more sinister, but it meanders around and feels under developed. Worth further listening, I think.
The Loop Closes,begins with electronica like Yello and finishes with guitar and chanting not unlike Primal Scream. Speaking in Tongues is one of the more intriguing tracks, we’ll call it ‘post-industrial clanging’ with a helping of Kabuki theatre.
You may not think all those comparisons are complimentary, but they are. An Omen is a musical breath of fresh air; it’s not an easy listen, but a rewarding one. RC
How to Destroy Angels An Omen EP
Written, Arranged, Produced, Performed and Art Directed by How to Destroy Angels:
- Mariqueen Maandig
- Trent Reznor
- Atticus Ross
- Rob Sheridan
- Mixed byAlan Moulder
- Engineering: Blumpy
- Mastering: Tom Baker
Label: Columbia Records
Released: November 13, 2012