Nine Inch Nails - Bad Witch (2018), 7/10

What an absolute gem of industrial-noise-punk-pop. It feels bizarre to say that this has become my favorite NIN record by far, but Bad Witch has stood the test of many, many listens. I deeply enjoyed Pretty Hate Machine, The Downward Spiral, and especially The Fragile for many years, but Bad Witch is everything I loved about Reznor’s music elevated by experimentation, more lush and varied instrumentation, and unprecedented hook-crafting that stands apart from the rest of his work. There honestly is not a single dull moment on this record and you may discover a new brilliant moment every time you listen amongst the dense, cryptic, gritty walls of sound. "Shit Mirror" is a great opening track that brings some solid pop-infused energy, priming us for the biting edge in "Ahead of Ourselves". Together, the first two tracks prepare you for the stylistic crescendo of "Play the Goddamned Part" and its more atmospheric and experimental, but still visceral and grounded sensibilities. "God Break Down the Door" is just as intoxicating as anything Reznor has produced or written and provides us with the ever-familiar droning synths he so expertly infuses into the track. The inclusion of such a brave, yet surprisingly accessible experiment in "Over and Out" makes me wonder why this album is so overlooked in comparison to the typical sounds of industrial rock that have become so tired and clich├ęd. It paints such a beautiful picture with intricate, yet daring strokes and takes us on a calming journey, right at the climax and conclusion of the record, to round out a well-balanced narrative. The album is brief, at just over thirty minutes, but packs quite the punch in that short time. Clearly one of NIN’s highest quality and most holistic projects.