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on 5 September 2013
As I put on Hesitation Marks, I thought that this album would have a lot to live up to in terms of originality. I for one felt that Reznor was on an incredible creative run of brilliant ideas and vision with Year Zero, Ghosts and The Slip. Sure, those albums were not comparable to The Downward Spiral or The Fragile in terms of emotional intensity, but then nor were they supposed to be. So I half-expected this album to be a continuation of innovating the format and conceptuality rather than an epic journey exploring the depths of suicidal feelings. And I was extremely excited to hear that Reznor was "completely rethinking" NIN had been working with people like Adrian Belew.

But in actual fact, it seems that the focus of Hesitation Marks is not about world-changing sonic experimentation and technological smart-assery. Musically, there are some surprises. Reznor career-long obvious Prince influence has never been more apparent than it is in the playful falsetto of "All Time Low" or the funk of "Satellite". In a somewhat Talking Heads' Remain in Light fashion, "Copy of A" is built up gradually in layers in a way which seems more rhythmically driven than ever before. And the major-scale verse melody of "Everything" certainly comes as a shock, but after a few listens somehow falls into the category of more conventional loud NIN moments.

Much has been made of the alleged 'sparseness' of this album in contrast with Reznor's usual painstaking tapestries of sound. But for much of the album this is done in such a way which perhaps less noticeable to outsiders, as layers of all-sorts seem to quickly pile on in almost every song. The main noticeable differences are the lack of any truly face-pounding explosive rockers, and the absence of Reznor screaming hard enough to lose his voice. There is an electronic, but ever so slightly ambient quality to the production which certainly gives the album a unique and endearing feel. In that respect it actually sounds more "band"-oriented than cinematic.

But ultimately the album's strength lie in its emotional undertones. It had to be the case - on first listen I actually found myself somewhat underwhelmed by the second half, which ostensibly seemed like an array of generic NIN guitar chugging and "I"s and "you"s. I assumed that after a few listens the cerebral "arc" would begin to show itself. and thankfully, it did. Reznor's motivation here is in looking back on who he was, where he was at, and what he was capable of, circa The Downward Spiral. He even confirmed that this was why he used artist Rusell Mills once again for the cover art. And as a mature, married, father of two and general normal chap, Reznor is now using music to express the harrowing depths of a mid-life crisis.

Joke - it's cooler than that. He is looking back on himself as a fomerly addictive personality prone to extreme mental swings and wondering if he is in any way at all, in spite of the struggles he went through, envious of his former "freer" self. There are intense emotions here, but they are intense explorations of uncertainty rather than despair.

It isn't a very deep plunge into turmoil like The Downward Spiral, and it isn't uber cool or uber conceptual like Year Zero. And nor it can it be expected to deliver the merits of those two periods of NIN. What it does deliver is a new level of reflectiveness, and will demand a deeper understand of that word from any NIN fan loyal enough to go the distance with it. It is, as anyone should expect, a new NIN, an long may it continue (for 4 or so years).
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on 2 September 2013
After making Nine Inch Nails "go away for a while" to pursue other projects such as scoring two David Fincher movies as well as working with his wife Mariqueen Manndig and Atticus Ross in his other band How To Destroy Angels, Trent Reznor has reawakened Nine Inch Nails with a brand new studio album, an album that originally started life as two tracks for a greatest hits compilation turns into a full length album "Hesitation Marks" the first since 2008's "The Slip".

The album is a lot more subtle in its approach with electronic beats creeping up on you and at times it can take a bit before the songs get going but when they do they all have slick sounding grooves, "Copy Of A" (which is currently being used to open Nine Inch Nails current tour which starts with all five members coming on to stage separately) has a very trance like beat going on with flourishes of guitar mixed in, it's an early highlight to the album. The first release from the album "Came Back Haunted" is driven by big beats and has a dance vibe throughout as well as throwing in a guitar solo at the midway point. "All Time Low" is a big slab of funk. "Everything" is the closet Reznor has ever coming to doing a pop punk number and is one of the most upbeat songs he has ever done.

"Satellite" might just be the catchiest song on the whole album after a couple of listens it will be stuck in your head and at times comes across as NIN doing David Bowies "Fame". "Various Methods of Escape" is driven by lots of beats starting of low tempo before a breakdown in the middle leads to big pounding beats that take the song to its bid dramatic climax. "In Two" features a number of vocal effects and you are never quite sure what direction the song will go in, it's a contender for the best song on the album. The deluxe edition features 3 remixes the highlight being Todd Rundgen's remix of "All Time Low". The artwork is a nod back to 1994's "The Downward Spiral" as the artwork once again is done by Russell Mills. Fleetwood Macs Lindsey Buckingham and king Crimsons Adrian Belew both provide guitar on a number of the tracks.

Reznor shocked everyone back in March this year when he announced Nine Inch Nails would tour again and then followed it up with the news of a new album, he would go onto say that the new album is "F***ing awesome" and that's exactly what "Hesitation Marks" is.
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on 2 September 2013
There's no denying how much of a musical genius Trent Reznor is. But that's the problem, alot is expected out of this guy, probably more so than modern musicians (aside from Radiohead).

It took a awhile for single Came Back Haunted to grow on me, but eventually I came round to loving it.

The album itself starts off very strong, the first 3 proper tracks leading Reznor into a potentially great new direction which echoes Radiohead and even Massive Attack era Mezzanine (the ballad Find My Way) as well as his own signature.

But then it starts to dip with 'All Time Low'.

At first I loved the track for it being so different from what Reznor has done before, but after awhile it's just so incredibly cheesy and grating, trying desperately to recapture the magic of Closer along with Bowie's Fame and Fashion.

But it simply doesn't work. It's almost like he's trying too hard to capture the raunchiness of Closer.

There are some great little tunes on the album, such as the brilliantly upbeat 'Everything', which sounds like a collaboration of Bernard Sumner (New Order) on guitar, and I Would for You.

Most are slow burning mood pieces, which somehow don't sit so well along side Reznor's most commercial pop music yet. Due to this, the album lacks two huge crucial ingredients that Reznor is normally so great at crafting- direction and character.

I often think Reznor is at his best when doing concept albums, The Downward Spiral is easily his greatest and most remembered album to date by hardcore fans. But it just seems like retreads of past albums (Satellite, although still good, sounds like it was left off Year Zero) to an overload of influence with Disappointed (is that Thom Yorke's vocals on the verse?) as well as B side filler (the repetitive Running).

It ends up as being 'an album which has good songs' rather than being 'a great album with great songs'. And not really a 'front to back' album in which each song follows up the next so effortlessly in sequence. It's also the first album Trent has made where the tracks don't segue into the next (there's a pause, then another track kicks in). It just feels so uneven.

But for me, the biggest problem seems to be Atticus Ross, Trent's right hand man and co-producer. Unlike his work with him on Year Zero, which had a 'narrative', Reznor's musical direction seems somewhat lost, and Ross's presence is overly dominant (give Trent back his guitar Atticus!).

I'm not attacking Reznor's 'new direction', which many have had a problem with since With Teeth, because there doesn't really seem to be much of a new direction at all. Just a mish mash of songs, some great, some good, some terribly average, with loads of beats and great production.

Which is the main flaw with this album, unlike previous Nine Inch Nail's records, it doesn't have it's own 'character'. If this were a Radiohead album (I only mention this due to Reznor's fondness of the band, as well as both being perfectionists of creating albums that work so well in sequential form), it would be the equivalent of 'Hail to the Thief'.

It seems doubtful that this will become a classic in the future of Nine Inch Nails back catalogue, and may in fact (apart from some remix albums) be his most forgettable.

Excellent production as always though, but that's to be expected. There's just very little on here which knocks you backwards and blows you away (Copy of A is the only one that comes close), and Trent is more than capable of creating all time classics with songs that tug at the heart strings (although Find my Way comes fairly close but misses the mark), which this album is also sorely lacking. It seems like a fairly cold and calculated effort for the might Rez.

Standout tracks-

Copy of A
Came Back Haunted
Find My Way
Everything
I Would for You
Various Methods of Escape

The rest range from being to good to simply average.

Let the hate commence...
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on 21 November 2013
I was prepared for a bit of a disastrous album after hearing the first couple of tracks off the album; however, I couldn't have been more wrong

Since Trent Reznor is now married and has two kids it was inevitable that his music would start to shift, and it would have been disappointing if he had sat still stylistically.

I really like the album, still dark and brooding, with what can only be described as 'dirty' basslines on some of the tracks. Much more acessible to non-NIN fans, and almost PHM-like in it's heavy use of electronic sounds. For me it's a big improvement on Year zero and the slip, which just didn't do it for me!
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on 7 June 2015
Trent Reznor never lets himself, or us, down. Whatever direction NIN music takes it stays true to its uniqueness without ever sounding repetitive. It means a lot to buy an album from a band that has released music for over 25 years and still be blown away.
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on 12 September 2013
I wanted to listen to this album as much as possible before I decided that I disliked it. When "Came Back Haunted" came out as a single I loved it, finally back to a more synthed up NIN but it's been well over a dozen listens so far and I still haven't found a way to like this album.
Sadly this album really sounds like Reznor is on autopilot, each song starts with a vintage drum machine loop that mostly stays with the song throughout, arrangements are monotonous and there's pretty much none of the anger or emotion that have become NIN's cornerstone. Tracks are as stretched out as possible with up to an additional 2 minutes of unaffecting outro added to some, and I don't mean interesting evolving soundscapes like on The Fragile, these are just "don't turn that loop off just let it run for even longer".
Another thing that makes listening difficult is Reznor's vocal style for the album, vocals are pretty raw but jump between incredibly bored on some tracks ("Find My Way", "Disappointed", "While I'm Still Here") to much more pop than usual which he doesn't seem to have the voice for. In previous moodier songs the imperfections in Reznor's voice helped the song paint a picture of torment and fragility but in some of the tracks on Hesistation Marks the style is a lot more adventurous and his falling off notes or strained vocals gets slightly cringeworthy.
There are some definite highlights to the album however, "Came Back Haunted", "In Two", "All Time Low" (the instrumentation and flow is great even if the vocals and lyrics are a bit... hmm) and the minute-or-so-long intro and outro tracks "The Eater of Dreams" and "Black Noise".
I would have loved a more synth based Nine Inch Nails album but Hesistation Marks is not it, it's just Trent with a 1-pattern drum machine murmuring lyrics.

Also the Deluxe Edition seems to just be a sales technique, the 3 remixes that make up the additional CD are just more minimal/boring versions of the originals and since the CD2 tracklisting is a sticker added to the back of the case it makes me think that the CD was finalised later to justify a more expensive release of the album, I would prefer Deluxe editions to exist because there is additional content available, rather than additional content being cobbled together to justify a Deluxe edition of the release for die-hard fans.
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on 28 September 2013
The record came in excellent packaging. No warps or any defects at all. Also, the delivery was fast. Regarding the album itselft, it starts really well, the first few tracks really grab you, but then it starts to lose something. What i'm trying to say is that the best moments are the first tracks. Regarding the artwork, it is nice to have a different one for the vinyl, although i personally prefer the CD one. And by the way, the record also came with CD of the album, which i think is great! Mind you, no artwork or case with it, just the cd in a transparent plastic sleeve.
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on 7 November 2013
Absolutely love the album. There are some people who would say it's not classic NIN, but I think Trent has found himself here. He is a happy man now and he always manages to come up with new and exciting stuff. It has a familiarity about it, but it manages to be bang up to date. So many good tracks ,but at the moment my personal favourites are "Satellite", "All Time Low" and "I Would For You".
Buy this and do yourself a favour - you won't regret it. Trent is a legend!
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on 12 December 2013
Being a return after several years and on a major label again I'd expected a big brash commercial album (maybe something closer to With Teeth) but Reznor has really pushed himself into some interesting musical corners here, you get the sense he's deliberately pushing out of his comfort zone. The results aren't always immediately punchy and accessible, but they're absorbing and it's an album that, all the best, reveals it's brilliance more and more with each listen.
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on 16 September 2013
I'm a huge NIN fan. Let's get that out the way. At first when I heard this album, I loved numerous songs on it (Copy of A, Find My Way, In Two and All Time Low registering as classics almost immediately). Some of the other songs, while not being bad by any stretch didn't hit home quite as readily, and I did think there was a drop in quality in the middle section. However, having now listened to it a dozen or so times, I can happily say that repeated listens do greatly benefit this album, as it makes more sense as it goes along, both lyrically and musically. I Would For You, Everything, Various Methods of Escape and Satellite are all very good, brilliantly produced songs that each have something different to offer, and while there is definitely more of a Prince vibe going on than for any of his previous releases, he pulls it off with some aplomb. I'd agree with previous reviews stating that Running is the only weak moment, but even that now has a certain charm to it for me. 2 out of the 3 remixes on the deluxe edition are excellent too - the Find My Way one is just a bit odd to me though...

Best work since The Fragile? Absolutely. Best album of 2013 - even above the incredible Like Clockwork. Yes to that one too!
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