Nine Inch Nails – Ghosts V-VI
Released: March 27th, 2020
Trent Reznor – Everything
Atticus Ross – Everything
In 2008, Trent Reznor released, as a ‘fuck you’ to his former record company, four separate albums of instrumental music, titled Ghosts I-IV. These thirty-six very short instrumental pieces, soundscapes and so forth were meant to sound like a soundtrack to a movie in your head. He released these albums independently on his own website and subsequently sold 800,000 vinyl copies in the first week. Trent has been releasing his music independently since then.
Twelve years later, Trent and, now permanent member of NIN, Atticus Ross, his new musical partner with whom he won an Oscar for their soundtrack work on The Social Network, have released two new entries to the Ghosts catalogue.
However, Ghosts V-VI are completely different beasts to the original four albums. This time, the pieces are much longer in length, from 5 minutes to over 10 minutes, plus, these albums are meant to be heard in one sitting, for they form the basis of a complete listening experience. And at a total of 2 hours and 33 minutes, you can bet that Ghosts V-VI is a journey into the Heart of Darkness.
Ghosts V is subtitled Together, which starts with the beautiful but ominous, ‘Letting Go While Holding On’. This is similar to a lot of soundtrack work that Trent and Atticus have been working on recently (in the last year alone they have done the soundtracks to Bird Box, Watchmen, and Waves, so they are busy). This song has a beautiful keyboard motif with a drone, that repeats through every song, playing under it. Together actually contains some of the most uplifting and inspiring musical pieces Trent and Atticus have ever composed, especially ‘OUT IN THE OPEN’. It can almost make you cry.
But, something else is going on here.
As Together continues, the mood of the album slowly starts to change. The drones get louder. And some of the sounds that Trent and Atticus create become more extreme. ‘Hope We Can Again’ contains a sound that is recorded at such a pitch that it will make your ears ring. I’m sure listening on headphones will enhance the experience of listening to Ghosts V-VI.
A warning: if you are susceptible to extreme sounds, be careful with these records.
Together has uplifting and positive titles such as ‘Letting Go While Holding On’, ‘Together’, ‘OUT IN THE OPEN’, ‘With Faith’ but by the time you get to the last two tracks, ‘Hope We Can Again’ and ‘Still Right Here’, the feeling begins to change. The music starts to feel more ominous. The final track, ‘Still Right Here’ musically belies its otherwise positive title. Loud guitars and subliminal vocals are brought into the mix. Nine Inch Nails are about to take us into some dark territory.
Which brings me now to Ghosts VI: Locusts.
One of the most unsettling pieces of music out there is Projekt Misanthropia by Stalaggh. It was recorded using the voices of inmates from an insane asylum. It’s not an easy listen.
Locusts is possibly next to Stalaggh’s music as some of the most disturbing I’ve ever heard.
Starting with ‘The Cursed Clock’, a relentless, off-kilter piano plays over a drone that somehow raises the hairs on the back of your neck. ‘Around Every Corner’ is 11 minutes of wondering if you’re going to get through this alive. Indeed, Locusts is the soundtrack to a nightmare, and it is terrifying. A deeply unsettling experience. The titles give away what you are in for: ‘The Cursed Clock’, ‘Around Every Corner’, ‘Run Like Hell’, ‘A Really Bad Night’, ‘Your New Normal’, ‘Right Behind You’.
By the time you get to ‘TURN THIS OFF PLEASE’, a 13 minute exercise in extreme sounds, you are well and truly in this and there’s no getting out.
However, there is a reprieve. The last two tracks; ‘So Tired’ and ‘Almost Dawn’ start to alleviate the mood somewhat, however there is still that uneasy feeling that something bad could happen.
I’ve never had an experience like listening to Ghosts V-VI before.
And I loved it.
Trent and Atticus are pushing the boundaries and using technologies to create a real piece of art here. There is no letting up. It’s a horror movie, but one more disturbing because it’s the one in your mind, not the one on the screen, which is somehow more frightening.
Trent Reznor is no longer the guy who sang, “I want to fuck you like an animal” but no man in his fifties would write those lyrics any more. Instead, he and Atticus Ross have created a brilliant piece of work that is both uplifting and terrifying.
Nine Inch Nails – Ghosts V: Together tracklisting:
- Letting Go While Holding On
- OUT IN THE OPEN
- With Faith
- Your Touch
- Hope We Can Again
- Still Right Here
Nine Inch Nails – Ghosts VI: Locusts tracklisting:
- The Cursed Clock
- Around Every Corner
- The Worriment Waltz
- Run Like Hell
- When it Happens (Don’t Mind Me)
- Another Crashed Car
- Temp Fix
- Trust Fades
- A Really Bad Night
- Your New Normal
- Just Breathe
- Right Behind You
- TURN THIS OFF PLEASE
- So Tired
- Almost Dawn