With the release of their first self-titled EP and now with “An Omen,” How To Destroy Angels have proven to be a much leaner, cleaner-sounding crew than Trent Reznor
’s other band. In conjunction with longtime collaborator Atticus Ross
and Mariqueen Maandig, Reznor tries to configure the drones and squirrely, processed matter around calculated acoustic rhythms and electronic melodies, as the Nine Inch Nails frontman trades vocal spaces with Maandig when he’s not outright absent. he band is at its best at combining its talents on the sixth of six tunes, “Speaking in Tongues,” a journey-is-the-destination ellipsis of noise and rising melodies.
But at its worst, “An Omen” is dispassionate and utterly unextraordinary, and it’s this for at least half the tunes. Reznor and Ross’ work on “The Social Network,” for instance, had similar minimalist strains, but at least didn’t lack in emotionality; the formula here is off, sometimes lost in drab lyricism. On “Keep It Together” Maandig and Reznor sing “I can’t keep it together” in staggered time like a broken round, because – get it? – they can’t seem to keep it together. “The Loop Closes” sings “the beginning is the end / keeps coming around again” over and over again because, again, get it?
“Ice Age” is more like a workshop tune, and unproven model, where the band appears to be recreating the band Califone inside of ProTools with Maandig’s practiced, calm voice wandering off in another sonic direction. That track, like the slow-building “The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters” has all the trappings of an interesting hybrid of tone and talent. However, it doesn’t amount to much.