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Ghosts I-IV

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Album Review

Roughly a year after Year Zero — a year marked by lots of sniping with his record company first about their clueless promotion then devolving into a tirade about their general uselessness — Trent Reznor broke free of Interscope/Universal and became a free agent, releasing music where and when he wanted. To celebrate his freedom he released the four-part Ghosts, a clearinghouse of 36 instrumentals all created during the years he crafted Year Zero. It should come as no great surprise that Ghosts then plays like a sketchbook, a place where Reznor jotted down sounds and textures that flitted across his mind and then either took them no further, or decided to spin them into something entirely new for the full album. These aren't songs, they're seeds, and they (appropriately) aren't even graced with titles; they're all dubbed "Ghosts," parts one through 36, and if Reznor didn't spend enough time crafting them into proper songs, don't feel too bad if you don't spend enough time with Ghosts to sort through them, picking out which fragments are powered by a clenched electro beat and which are glassy ambient shards. Even fanatics might be hard-pressed to give Ghosts such a careful listen as it's simply not meant to be so closely observed. It's meant to be taken as surface, perhaps skimmed for samples, but generally to be used as mildly unsettling mood music — a specialty of Reznor's, to be sure, but he's better and scarier when his ideas are more finely honed than they are here.

Customer Reviews

Unusual yet Underrated

Unusual in the sense that Trent has done something different with this album. Aside from the obvious 36 unnamed song thing going on, the music has an ambient sound that hasn't been heard in NIN's music since 'The Fragile', shedding it's usual rock-formula for the entirety of the album, as well as being completely instrumental.

A criticism, though artistic and conceptual, the lack of song name is bothersome, as track identification is tricky. For example, I can instantly say that "God Given" is one of my most favoured NIN songs; I can remember the song name thanks to the lyrics of the song and individual sound, but that type of distinction is lost on this album. Lacking lyrics and catchy rifts, it's best to either listen to the whole album in one sitting (which I could do very happily) or keep tabs on the track number. Having done this, on a first play, numbers 21, 32 and 34 (onward) stood out to me as the strongest songs.

If you're a NIN fan, then it's worth getting this whole album - as long as you can live without Reznor's vocals. If you like experimental bands like Coil, give this album a try (pretty cheap for so many songs, run time roughly 1.8 hours). If you like rock, might not be the album for you (try 'With Teeth' instead) but if you like some electronic/ post-industrial stuff, try some samples. Again, if you're interested in the album, buy the whole thing - the majority of the songs play seamlessly into each other.

All in all, a well rounded album, euphoric sounding with a nice sense of atmosphere with a dribble of that usual NIN flavour. Interesting album concept, though it has its drawbacks.

Thought provoking and awesome.

Very interesting music, spooky- with some piano and vocal- but also rocky in other songs. If you like alternative, "quirky" stuff then this is for you.

At the moment this is fast becoming my favourite album, I can just lay and listen to it the whole way through. And yes, very thought-provoking.


Formed: 1989 in Cleveland, OH

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Nine Inch Nails were the most popular industrial group ever and were largely responsible for bringing the music to a mass audience. It isn't really accurate to call NIN a group; the only official member is singer/producer/multi-instrumentalist Trent Reznor, who always remained solely responsible for NIN's musical direction (he was, however, supported in concert by a regular backing band). Unlike the vast majority of industrial artists, Reznor wrote melodic, traditionally structured songs where lyrics...
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