Where Ghosts V: Together is hopeful and optimistic, Ghosts VI: Locusts falls on the flip side of the coin. From the first piano tone of “The Cursed Clock” the tone is set for something altogether much more uncomfortable, harder to listen to and aurally challenging. No less musical than its release mate and companion – it lacks the thin sheen of hope and instead it clutches and doubles down on an eerie sense of discomfort and awkwardness. It pushes your ability to listen, to enjoy and to embrace.
Often the music borders on tonal shifts and harsh extremes. Frequencies are often maxed out and the piano and keys can stagger into levels that make you wince and recoil – but still – you are forced to hold on by the compelling nature of it all. Where Ghosts V allowed moments of reflection and contemplation, Ghosts VI constantly wants you on your back foot, engaged but rattled, in for the ride, but glossed with sweat and apprehension. This is music as an endurance sport – and the reward is an album that, on the whole, highlights why Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails are as celebrated as they are and why he is in such demand as an artist and a composer.
Subtle moments of clarity exist under the high pitch piano stabs and piercing top end tones and harmonies. Little bursts of brass, a swell of Accordion, a drum beat that momentarily rears its head like a sample from Flash Gordon under the weird angles and jagged edges. There is a sense of giving up, of defeat, of fear – it permeates the record, an emotion captured in the web of sound. Beautifully ugly, jarring and exhausting – but oh so rewarding by the final track “Almost Dawn”.
Nine Inch Nails have never been interested in doing things the easy way. Where a million bands will toe the line and tread that familiar ground until they inevitably break up and are resigned to history and obscurity – Nine Inch nails keep digging, keep pushing, keep innovating – and with the Ghosts series of albums, they have created a companion universe to their industrial rock roots, and have allowed themselves a whole fertile soil to grow new releases for years to come – and the fans, people just like me, are happy and fat from the bounty on offer.