Industrial heroes Nine Inch Nails have given their fans stuck at home the most welcome surprise with two free new albums, the second being ‘Ghosts VI: Locusts’.
Contrasting with the more subtle nature of the accompanying ‘Ghosts V: Together’, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross have opted for a different approach for the sixth instalment of the ‘Ghosts…’ works.
‘The Cursed Clock’ is made up of multiple piano riffs that interlock with each other for an eerie and tense atmosphere that will continue throughout the album. Further haunting soundscapes are added for ‘Around Every Corner’, as well as some hanging trumpet notes, and the way this builds makes for unsettling experience that will undoubtedly draw you in.
But the sinister mood isn’t favoured entirely. The aforementioned track segues very naturally into ‘The Worriment Waltz’, and though heavily weighted on a repeating piano pattern, there’s more a solemn nature to this one, and the elongated sound effects at the end will certainly leave you guessing.
‘Run Like Hell’ also continues to offer some surprises, and will certainly please fans that enjoyed the ‘Blackstar’-esque experiments on 2018’s ‘The Bad Witch’.
And when ‘When It Happens (Don’t Mind Me)’ comes in, the repeated motif enters your brain and doesn’t leave, as if it’s ganging up on you. It’s as if this could actually soundtrack the uncertainty and bleak situation we find ourselves in at the moment. ‘Another Crashed Car’ is particularly downcast, driven by phone answer machine noises, and the neoclassical-leaning ‘Trust Fades’ is another highlight.
From the point of view of maintaining your attention, it’s clear that this is album is more accomplished than ‘Ghosts V: Together’ in that respect, even if the tension across the album is never really given a grand release.
‘Just Breathe’ is more sparse, but the sporadic piano notes coupled with some haunting sound effects continue to keep you on the edge of your seat. ‘So Tired’ has the raw, angsty sounds of a grand piano being miserably bashed, and there’s also an intense wall of sound in closer ‘Almost Dawn’.
This is, of course, a challenging listen, even by the usual standards of albums like this, but the more you pay attention to tracks like the 13-minute-long ‘Turn This Off Please’, the more rewards there are to reap.
Albums that are minimalist in their musical structure or canvas always run the risk of washing over you, but this is full of highlights that you may not notice upon first listen, and very rarely do you find yourself switching off. Of their recent works, ‘Ghosts VI: Locusts’ may sit among Nine Inch Nails‘ best.