The music of How To Destroy Angels crawls from the deepest depths of your dreams, where hazy visions and nightmares twist into beautiful and eerie forms. Composed of former Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor, his wife Mariqueen Maandig, and Trent’s longtime collaborators Rob Sheridan and Atticus Ross, the group melds the night with the shadows in the most melodic of ways. They recently dropped An omen EP_, their second studio release and a powerful collection of tracks to boot. This EP is not for the faint of heart, but instead for those who wish to immerse themselves in the soft, tainted beauty of How To Destroy Angels. So take a breath. Don’t be scared. Just press play.
Each track on the EP is soothing but unsettling, supple but sharp, minimalist but complex. “Keep It Together” shimmers with burning bass growls, as the percussion quickly scatters back and forth across the entire breadth of the song. A filtered guitar sounds like a quiet death knell, and Maandig’s singing slithers over the unassuming electronica, past the foreboding synths and clicking beat. Reznor joins Maandig in the latter half of the song, and their combined vocals produce a gorgeous and unnatural sound. “Ice Age” flutters with an out of tune banjo, while the zombie-like bass staggers amongst Maandig’s pretty little voice. The dark and foreboding bluegrass at times creates equal shades of calm and anxiety, as the guitars clatter like bones and Maandig lets her voice rise into a gentle falsetto. “On The Wing” takes you to the depths of a dark club, as the rising 808 percussion creates a strange, foot-tapping beat. The song lightly pulsates, like a full-blown club-banger encased behind steel walls. Reznor and Maandig intertwine their vocals to add to the foggy dance atmosphere, stunning even through the distortion.
The latter half of the EP fades into thick clouds of smoky, guitar-tinged electro, heavily instrumental but just as striking as the first three tracks. “The Sleep Of Reason Produces Monsters” begins with a simple synth line and ambient background production. The song starts sweet and slow, but is soon joined by other synth lines, building upon a bone-chilling discordance. Like a dream turning into a nightmare, the blissful sounds fade away and instead the song becomes enveloped in the disconcerting effervescence. The track continues to rise, broken only by Maandig’s urgent whisper to wake up. “The Loop Closes” is more of an aggressive piece of music, and here we see cutting guitar licks join the purring synthesizers. Reznor and Maandig bolster the end of the track with their soft whispers, repeating “the beginning is the end, and it keeps coming ‘round again.”
An omen EP_ closes out its 6-track run with “Speaking In Tongues,” an almost 7-minute piece that sounds like a sacrificial offering underneath a blood-red moon. “Speaking In Tongues” jerks and stutters like some kind of twisted monster, moving through the thick undergrowth of Reznor and Maandig’s vocals, searching for its next victim. It’s a perfect end to the EP, encompassing all the most remarkable elements of How To Destroy Angels.