Review: Nine Inch Nails – ‘Not The Actual Events’

There have not been as many bands who have done so much within being in the background as Nine Inch NailsTrent Reznor and, now full-time member, Atticus Ross have flexed their collective, creative muscle with music scores from recent films such as 2014’s Gone Girl and the recent 2016 documentary, Before The Flood. “A Minute To Breathe” is a tranquil track featuring Reznor’s soft voice intertwined with melancholy piano and faint electronics as a last plea from the ever-dire situation with Earth and it’s climate situation. New NIN material was said to be coming for 2016, but with the ever-expanding palate of the duo through their score work – would Reznor and Ross implement their film decor into NIN’s already vast musical palate?


In an interview with Apple Music, Reznor expressed his fortay into listening to music on vinyl. With the voracity that music is consumed, especially with streaming services galore, some may find it to be an ancient relic of old days to listen to music in one, continuous journey. Not In The Actual Events, the first release from Nine Inch Nails in three years is meant to be a jarring listen from top to bottom. It doesn’t give you room to catch your breath before thrusting you in, making you want to finish the journey. This very much a NIN record that sounds like home.

The short 21-minute run time, although new, feels like a driving down a familiar tunnel of Nine Inch Nails . Starting with “Branches/Bones,” the EP shoots you into a fast, punk-outfitted song that’s a short statement into a collection of songs that make you feel like you are taking a look through an entire discography. “The Idea of You,” which sees Dave Grohl behind the drum kit sounds like a combination of 2005’s With Teeth‘s bigger guitar sound and the whisper-type vocals from “Zero Sum” before it crashes into an all out jam session.

Given the extensive layers and textures, NTAE, which was released in conjunction with  reissues of previous Nine Inch Nails, sees it’s strength in the familiarity of some of the themes it presents. “She’s Gone Away,” a dirty, drudge akin to The Downward Spiral’s “Reptile,” supplants a groovy baseline with ethereal electronics. The way the song is structured as the chorus is reaching it’s completion, Reznor’s vocals are pushed to the background – fortifying the feelings of a man coming undone. It’s the little nuances that keep the EP fresh with each listen.

“Burning Bright (Field on Fire),” sounds like the the answer for anyone to interpret their sense of discomfort in the previous year. Janes Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro adds to the wall of distorted guitars that make you feel the every bit of decay and regression that the track is trying to convey.

2016 was an emotional personification of being stuck in quicksand for many.  With a seemly never ending cattle car of bad news, As Reznor sings, “I can’t tell if I am dreaming anymore,” under a tow of sonic noise, it’s the way that he uses the tone of his voice that may define the year that it was conceived in. There is a almost defeated, accepting tone with a song that put a stamp of the collective feeling of 2016 and set a new, interesting path for Nine Inch Nails as a whole.