Still angry after all these years

4 out of 5 stars

By Austin Powell for The Daily Texan on June 9, 2005

Trent Reznor has not - and will never ­- put out a bad record. The industrial icon is an isolated perfectionist who will delay the release of an album as long as he deems necessary in order to correctly capture every second of every song. The question to be asked, then, when reviewing his latest release, "With Teeth," is how well does it stand up against the expectations that progress over time, and does the delay take away from the strength of Reznor's raw and malevolent delivery?

If "With Teeth" were to be judged strictly from the standpoint of its first single, "The Hand That Feeds," it would seem as if Reznor suffered a paralysis on both fronts. While the song spends a great deal of time attempting to build momentum through heavy repetition and mild-at-best breakdowns, the song never even comes closes to matching the energy and passion that can be found in previous Nine Inch Nails hits like "Head Like A Hole," or "Closer."

It would then seem as though the six years that have passed since the epically proportioned double album, "The Fragile," have disconnected Reznor not only from his aging audience, but from the power he once yielded with his music.

This is, however, not the case. The album's opening track, "All the Love in the World," echoes the feelings of isolation and trepidation found in tracks like "Something I Can Never Have" from NIN's debut; yet it manages to be more technical and menacing than ever before. The song flows through piano interludes that continuously build it into a theatrical conclusion of layers upon layers of vocal harmonies. These refrains alongside Reznor's confrontational primal screams seemingly mirror the way he himself must hear the words as they constantly torture his mind and overtake his body.

"You Know What You Are" is an extremely aggressive and emotionally raw song that hinges on the intensity first displayed through the frantic and frenetic drums, which, like several other key tracks, were performed by Dave Grohl. In it, Reznor proves how strong simplistic and cyclical words and phrases can be when they are delivered with sheer emotion and backed with an overwhelming wall of sound.

The title track, "With Teeth," incorporates a wide range of musical instrumentation and utilizes extended intermissions of hushed piano progressions and whispers to create a platform for the rousing conclusion and does so without a single shriek or scream.

"The Collector" displays Reznor's knack for incorporating pop sensibilities into his dark and loathsome depictions. "Only" and "Sunspots," bear the same sexual, meditative and robotic trances that first pushed Reznor into his icon status.

The album, however, still seems distanced from the listener. Perhaps it is not time that separates the two, but instead an active approach Reznor takes to further his isolation. On "The Line Begins to Blur," He screams into padded white walls - safe, but only from himself - a theme that could even be interpreted from the closing track, "Right Where it Belongs."

Despite the time it took to create this album and the complications that arose from doing so, the final product is exactly what Reznor wanted it to be, a mere glimpse into a dark, complex and neurotic mind.

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