Album-Review: Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks

Nine Inch Nails being one of the most influential acts of the entire alternative scene altogether, no need to say that on Hesitation Marks were laid the highest expectations. An uncommon music creativity coupled with the smartest lyrics about the lowest and darkest states of mind a human brain can encounter, that’s what Nine Inch Nails always was about, to a point where the Nine Inch Nails sound took its distances from any genre to actually become one, its creator Trent Reznor becoming a legend.

But what’s left of Nine Inch Nails if it’s not completely tortured and inept at normal life anymore? That’s probably the question most fans will happen to wonder when listening to the new songs. What if the master of the unbalanced has found his way back from insane pain, back from the place that had led him to compose “Only”, “Something I Can Never Have” or “The Downward Spiral”? What if most of his fans won’t manage to be happy for him? 

For that’s where it’s getting a little bit tricky. Do we actually care about the mental health of the people we worship, as long as they give us what we want? Could we actually get to the point of hoping for him to be down again so we get our (over)dose of blackness? 

And when “Disappointed” kicks in, no need to read between the lines for some hidden message, when it’s all there: “Can I ask you something? What did you expect? So disappointed, with what you get.” Ouch. Does that hurt? Yeah, it does. It’s precisely the idea of happy Trent busy making new music, and then, suddenly turning back only to look at us, still down in the hole, to let us understand he’s not coming back. And to push the nail just a little deeper, “Everything” comes into play. Long story short, he’s survived everything, all the walls begin to dissolve away, and he’s whole, he’s free. Right. That might be the scariest thing on the all album, and of Trent’s entire career. Does he actually, really mean to tell us he’s happy?
Are we gonna be able to appreciate the Nine Inch Nails sound, which remains unchanged, if it’s no longer stained by an endless pain? Can we accept music as a whole and appreciate it, if we don’t recognize ourselves in it anymore? That’s where Trent is going to face the biggest problem regarding Hesitation Marks reception within his fans. For people listen to the music that talk to them, ABOUT them. And no one can make a music that is not about one self. Until now, Nine Inch Nails and the Nine Inch Nails fans were on the same page. But if a gap suddenly appears, the link could be broken.

Luckily for us all, one can not sound wax happy at first try.

Take out “Everything” (the song), the rest still sounds pretty gloomy and cruel, with the usual merciless charm proper to Nine Inch Nails music. Some feel like a dark dream, such as on the synthetic drops of the liquid “Satellite”, others like direct confrontations with oneself (not without reminding of How to Destroy Angels), like in “Various Methods of Escape”, all of them always bearing the unmissable Reznor mark, in the words and the sounds. 

It would be lying to say that all songs are essential on Hesitation Marks, but there again, the album works as a whole, which leaves us with one impression, not fifteen. Funnily enough, “Disappointed”, previously cited, might actually be one of the biggest things happening on this album. For it just feels so right, so rightly said, at the right time. At the end of the day, there is only one thing that appears to be the most important with Nine Inch Nails music, which will guarantee the perpetuation of such a connexion between the band and the fans, and it’s Trent’s ability to talk to us, directly, and threaten to reveal us to ourselves. This is precisely what “Disappointed” does, putting words on an unspoken fear, forcing us to face what we don’t want to see. 

This album is important, and all Nine Inch Nails albums will always be important, as long as what Trent has to tell us means something to both sides. Simply sometimes, it takes longer to understand.

Review by Marie Lando.