Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Review - How To Destroy Angels EP

My HTDA download link arrived in my inbox in the early hours of this morning. After a drama with computer security settings, it was finally on my machine and pouring out of my speakers. Here is the track-by-track review.

1. The Space In Between
Familiar to many from its gory, mesmerising video, the track has been remastered slightly and given a final polish. As an opener, it's a great choice. Lyrically and vocally, it is definitely one of HTDA's strongest tracks, and the extra room afforded by an MP3 gives Mariqueen's serene vocal some extra clarity and depth. Although Trent Reznor has described the video as being about a dying relationship, it is hard not to pick up some definite lyrical nods to last year's Twitter drama and the ensuing bitterness.

2. Parasite
Begins with a squalling guitar line and dirty beats. Mariqueen's barely-audible whispered voice cuts in, then we hear Trent for the first time. He and Mariqueen share the singing over Atticus's sinuous bassline, and it's almost as if they're one singer, so close are their lines. The whispered refrain of "Parasite" and the distorted stabs of guitar are quite reminiscent of NIN. Towards the end, the song collapses in a jagged mass of guitar and synth, and the talk track returns. The bassline from this was in the second of the teaser videos.

3. Fur Lined
Probably the "poppiest" track on the EP. There is an immediate resemblance to certain more upbeat NIN songs, especially the drum track (Only). Mariqueen switches up her vocals from her usual whispery style to a kittenish sneer, which is a welcome diversion. There are strong electro influences audible here, with trebly synths and heavily treated voices, although it breaks down into something scuzzier at the end. The double synth line from the final teaser appears towards the end of this song as a repeating motif.

4. BBB
Probably my favourite track from the EP. It's another electronically-based number, and it's here that we get to hear the filthy synths from the first teaser video. The Swarmatron is very much in evidence and sounds even better on the finished song, its distorted wail rising above the assorted cat sounds, whines and drones of the other instruments. The BBB of the title stands for "big black boots", which appear in the lyrics. There is a clear nod to BDSM here and it is hard not to interpret this as a bondage love song. Mariqueen and Trent duet once more, with Atticus on the knobs.

5. The Believers
I think this is a slightly tweaked version of the song I heard last week, although I may be wrong. It is a percussive, glitchy electronic number with what appears to be a lot of "organic" instruments thrown into the mix. It has a strong Asian flavour: the drum sounds and patterns sound somewhat Indian and some of the other incidental sounds make me think of southeast Asian tuned percussion instruments, like a gamelan orchestra gone techno. There's a neat guitar and eight-bit style synth duet at the end. Vocally and lyrically, it's the weakest track, but the music makes up for it.

6. A Drowning
The first single will be familiar to many listeners. It is the simplest of the songs, and also the calmest for the most part. Mariqueen sings over a trebly synth bassline, familiar from Atticus's other work. The music builds into a wall of underwater-sounding guitars and synth, before a plaintive and jarring horn section cuts in. The minor-key piano motifs sound very Reznor-ish, and the distorted guitar solo rising above Mariqueen towards the end is also noticeably him. It finishes the EP well, as its length does not burden it quite so much.

You can download your copy here.

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