Nine Inch Nails released it’s sixth studio album, Ghosts I-IV, on March 2, 2008, signifying not only a departure from Interscope Records but also a departure from the traditional works that NIN fans have come to expect. This album, consisting of 36 instrumental tracks, was originally released for digital download through NIN’s Website for a bargain-based price of five bucks (a teaser of the first 9 tracks offered free of charge).
Following this initial release, several other, more elaborate versions were made available, ranging from a Two-Disc CD set for ten bucks, to an Ultra-Deluxe Limited Edition for $300, which included CDs, vinyl, Blu-ray discs, photographs, books and Trent’s signature with a unique number topping out at 2,500. It is inarguable, by the overwhelming avant-garde sound heard on Ghosts I-IV, that Reznor and crew were geared up and ready to break free from the restraints of their record company.
Sounding mostly like the soundtrack of an old horror flick, summing up Ghosts just in those words would be an injustice to the album and just a plain out lie. This mix of synths, distorted guitar-banging riffs, machine-like noises and ambient dreamy sequences, is severely different from the group’s previous albums, yet still delivers us a definite identifiable work of Reznor and company. Tapping the familiar and inevitable dark side, Ghosts also turns out sad, beautiful, and dare I say redeeming tracks, such as 22 on Ghosts III & 28 on Ghosts IV, among many others.
On NIN’s website, Reznor refers to Ghosts by saying “This music arrived unexpectedly as the result of an experiment. The rules were as follows: 10 weeks, no clear agenda, no over thinking, everything driven by impulse. Whatever happens during that time gets released as… something.” Many would interpret the quote as stupidity, if not an egomaniac’s recipe for disaster. To me, it spells out one thing and one thing only…truth.
In listening to this album, I hear a musical liberation and a total freedom of expression that transcends the boundaries of what our ears are trained to hear, and more importantly, allows musicians to be what they truly are beneath the surface…artists. NIN allowed themselves to go wherever their minds took them and somehow also managed enough structure to work that into a cohesive whole, and in the end, they delivered us an album that’s entirely new, refreshing and close to perfection. I, among many, am grateful.