Nine Inch Nails release new album Year Zero on April 16, but Gigwise had a sneaky listen today in the bowels of a Soho bar.
The playback was organised ahead of our exclusive online interview with Trent Reznor next week.
The first half of a concept album based on 'a daydream about the end of the world', it is a 16-track opus that sees Trent Reznor returning to his electronic, DIY roots.
Here's our track by track sneak preview...
Instrumental introduction to the album. The drum and electronica opening salvo set the pace for what's to come...
2. The Beginning of the End
Heavy guitars, swirling synth and driving bass over a melodic backdrop. The rockier direction of the last album is scarcely apparent as electronica once again dominates the world of NIN.
The first single, and a good taster for the album as a whole. A pounding chorus and angry vocals sums up Trent Reznor's disquiet with the state of the world.
4. The Good Soldier
Drums and bass combine with the sounds of gunfire while a dreamlike synth line weaves its way through the track. It winds down to a near-stop before exploding back with a vengeance. A possible future single.
Dirty electronica similar to the classic 'Closer', complete with rushes reminiscent of gasps of breath. "Oh my god, could we go any faster!?" groans Trent towards the end.
6. Me, I'm Not
A slow burner that recalls elements of Massive Attack's 'Angel'. The instruments creep in and out, before it breaks down into an edgy mix of scratching and bleeps suggesting impending doom.
7. Capital G
With an intro eerily similar to Michael Jackson's 'The Way You Make Me Feel', this is NIN at their most danceable. The music is strident and bassy, while Trent delivers a vocal diatribe over the top.
8. My Violent Heart
The menacing intro leads into spoken vocals, with Reznor playing the role of prophet. It builds up to an explosion of squealing synth, electronic strings and heavy guitars before fading and dying.
9. The Warning
With the concept in full flow, Trent's vocals are yet more prophetic and foreboding here. "You're Time is Ticking Away", is essentially the warning offered in a resigned fashion that suggests he could be singing to himself as much as the listener.
10. God Given
As with 'Capital G', this is a grooving, melodic track that belies the undertones present throughout the album. And you never expect to hear the line, "C'mon, sing along, everybody now!" on a record so full of disquiet.
11. Meet Your Master
From the poppiness of the last track, back to a darker tone. "Come on down", he repeatedly sings, summoning the listener back to the bigger picture.
12. The Greater Good
Like Kid A-era Radiohead, a sparse track flavoured with barely audible vocals. The pounding drums are the focal point of a mysterious, dark tune.
13. The Great Destroyer
Casting himself in the title role, Reznor's melodic vocals offer a lament that began a few tracks ago with 'The Warning'. Again, we are reminded that "The end is near" over a collage of electronica.
14. Another Version of the Truth
An instrumental in two parts; the first half a distant piano is heard through a haze of static, but it builds and grows into a clear melody, while a lurking noise constantly haunts the background
15. In This Twilight
A rockier effort than most of the album, this highlights Reznor's underrated vocal dexterity, as he soars in the choruses and drops down to a darker growl for the verses.
A fitting climax to the first half of this dual concept record. The booming bass and sparse drum compliment Trent's muffled spoken word lines. The track and album sign off with a swirl of sparse piano and noise, an end that suggests more to come.
Keep your eyes on Gigwise for a full review and, of course, the exclusive interview with Trent Reznor coming soon!