ARTIST: How To Destroy Angels
An Omen
Columbia Records
November 13, 2012

By Justin Polak
Co-founder, Ambassador to the Mushroom Kingdom

If you would have told me in the past how often projects involving Trent Reznor would be released within the last few years, I would have thrown out my back laughing.

It’s hard to believe that I used to be frothing at the mouth in the late ’90s and mid ’00s to FINALLY get a new Nine Inch Nails record. It seems after 2007′s Year Zero, Trent has been a nonstop working machine. This is a very good thing, as I have been more than satisfied by the sounds found on his late NIN work, his soundtrack contributions and How to Destroy Angels.

Anyone who cares knows by now that Reznor has stepped back a bit concerning this band. His wife, Mariqueen Maandig and long time partner Atticus Ross are a huge part of the project, the former being the lead vocalist. However, another familiar face joins the adventure this time around; Rob Sheridan is now a part of the band. With their combined forces, How to Destroy Angels unleashes both their second release and EP, An Omen!

One of the criticisms of their first self titled EP is that while there was a distinct difference when compared to how NIN sounded overall, one would find little argument with someone labeling How to Destroy Angels NIN with a female vocalist. However, I have to agree with Eric’s review of the self titled EP that hearing more NIN-like material wasn’t necessarily a raw deal (I otherwise basically agreed with the review). Whether or not you liked or disliked the NIN familiarity of the last release, the fact that yet another NIN contributor joining the fray does make me wonder if An Omen is going to sound even more like NIN than the last release.

I suppose my conclusion to that line of thought is that while I did feel How to Destroy Angels did a better job of sounding more unique, there are still plenty of times that you can easily hear Trent on the record. I mean that literally as well, seeing how he performs prominent back up vocals throughout this outing. Again, the NIN familiarity doesn’t exactly hold back any enjoyment of this EP, but it’s a fact that is impossible to ignore.

As for how An Omen stands on its own, the EP definitely dives very deep into more electronic roots, leaving behind the more industrial elements found on the self titled release. Out of the six tracks, only one of them (“Ice Age”) feels more organic, but the plus side to that angle is hearing Mariqueen’s exquisite vocals. It’s obvious that she feels more comfortable on this release overall, but it especially shows on that section of the EP.

Something else I also appreciate is how simple each track sounds, but upon after each listen, I also notice a lot of the attention to detail. I think the reason for that is that some tracks will be featured on an upcoming album, and anyone familiar with Trent knows how meticulous and hardcore he gets when trying to make a song sound juuuuust right. But hey, for me, that type of approach has always produced positive results, even if I had to wait five years for another NIN record, or nearly a year between soundtrack compositions. More power to How to Destroy Angels for sticking to that gameplan.

Any fans of instrumental work involving Reznor will absolutely love “The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters.” Every second that passes the track becomes more interesting, involved and just a fun (but spooky) ride. I have to admit that I am more of a sucker for this type of Reznor material, but I will stand by my opinion when I say that it is the best part of An Omen.

Long story short, this EP does a better job separating itself from NIN in general, but anyone who has been keeping up with Trent Reznor for a number of years is still going to hear a familiar sound, as I mentioned above. However, I think this will become less of an issue over time, especially since An Omen makes it seem as though the band is growing into its own monster.

I feel a bit bad for Trent and everyone else involved with How to Destroy Angels. NIN has such a huge legacy, it’s downright impossible for any writer to not bring it up while discussing this band. Even here, I have been trying my hardest bring up NIN as few times as possible. But I have failed so spectacularly that I am sure on the off chance Trent sees this review, he might find a way to smack me upside the head across the internet!

Despite all that, being compared to NIN isn’t the worst thing in the world, especially if you have the unfair advantage of being Trent Reznor in a different project. When you break it all down, An Omen is an excellent listen worthy of your attention. Just like the self titled EP, I once again find myself looking forward to the future of How to Destroy Angels.

RATING: 9/10

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