Music Reviews
An Omen EP

How to destroy angels_ An Omen EP

(Columbia Records) Rating - 7/10

When How to destroy angels_ released their first EP in 2010, it was not far removed from the soundscapes Trent Reznor had been painting for years with Nine Inch Nails. It was a little quieter, a little more electronic, but not too different otherwise. Reznor even said himself that the self-titled EP was just an initial experiment to see what this new group could make.

Two years later, the band has shown significant growth on their new release, An Omen EP. Rob Sheridan has been added to the band, which includes Reznor, Mariqueen Maandig and Atticus Ross. An identity has been formed and it is a very atmospheric one. The EP is far more mood-based, than song-based. But don’t think that means these are sketches or incomplete ideas. Instead, the record’s shifting vibes and buildups create a deep well of instrumentation to dive into.

Even though it’s only the second song in the tracklisting, Ice Age feels like the EP’s centerpiece. The main guitar riff is straightforward and taut, creating the feeling of icy raindrops plinking on a tin roof. The lyrics are still typically dark and Reznor-esque, but Maandig’s vocals and music move in the opposite direction, bringing some lightness to the dark words. Despite the song’s simplicity, it keeps your attention for its whole seven minute length. It is great as both headphone and background music.

The sleep of reason produces monsters doesn’t give you much to go on lyrically to interpret its title. Instead, the meaning is in the melody. The intro piano is child-like, a pattern that you imagine would be taught to first-time players. After all, who else worries about monsters while they sleep but kids? Over time, the atmosphere grows more and more foreboding, as if the imaginary monsters children dream of has been replaced by the very real monsters that adults fear.

Unfortunately, there is one major flaw to this EP, the first single Keep It Together. The fact that there was a single at all feels like a mistake on such an atmospheric album. It starts off well enough, with electronic beats flittering off the surface and an earthquake bass vibrating the melody through the speakers. The guitar pieces echo in the background, like winds smashing against a boarded up window. The chorus though feels shoehorned in, as if the band felt the song needed one to be a single. It attempts to create dual melodies that are also slightly offbeat, but it seems too much like math rock to be enjoyable.

On the wingwould have been a far better choice if the group had to choose a single. Electronic synths slink in the background, while the heavy drums sound like something off of Year Zero. The dual vocals of Reznor and Maandig are smothered in the background, not becoming intelligible until the chorus, where a bright (yes, bright and Reznor in the same sentence) synth plays out, like the sun shining briefly through rain clouds.

If I had to choose a Nine Inch Nails project to compare An Omen to, it would be the Ghosts project. This EP is not a singles-ready collection, nor should it be. Instead, the atmospheric songs do their part to transport the listener to another mood or mindset. Despite the flawed first track, this record is another great addition to Reznor’s catalogue and an excellent step forward for How to destroy angels_.