March 3rd was going to be another regular day until I heard that Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails released a new compilation/series: Ghosts (also known as HALO 26). The big news, however, was that he released the first volume (I) for free, in high quality DRM-free MP3 files under a Creative Commons license (free to share but not to sell). Reznor finally freed himself from Interscope records after delivering his last album, Year Zero (along with the final contract album, Year Zero Remixed). Mind you, Year Zero wasn’t his greatest work… totally unoriginal and boring. Actually, I think it was his worst work to date. But I guess now I understand why it was that way: he was simply obligated to fill out his contract terms with the label. I read that Reznor was pretty much tired of being screwed over by big record companies, especially when said companies screwed with his loyal fans. There’s a YouTube video of NIN at a concert in Australia, with Trent Reznor telling his fans to pirate his albums because of the over-inflated prices.
I was pretty happy to find out that Ghosts was an instrumental-only series, as I have always been a fan of The Fragile‘s melodic vocal-free tracks (La Mer, Just Like You Imagined, Pilgrimage, etc.). I decided to try out the first album before purchasing the rest. On the topic of prices, all four volumes (I to IV) are 5$ for a download-able version (in either FLAC or MP3), 10$ for a two-disc version with a 16 page booklet and PDF, 75$ for the Deluxe Edition (2 CDs, 1 Data DVD with MP3s/FLACs, 1 Blu-Ray slideshow disc, booklet and 40 page print-book with accompanying images for every track) and a Limited Edition set that has everything the Deluxe Edition has with pressed vinyls for audiophiles. The Limited Edition is 300$ and limited to 2,500 releases. Supposedly, the latter edition got sold out within hours of its announcement. The people who plan on selling the Limited Edition are bound to make some killer profits off eBay.
After downloading the first volume from a fast server, a listen through all 9 tracks made my decision right there and then. I immediately fell in love with Ghosts. So, to show my support, I purchased the two-disc version of Ghosts for a total of 23$ USD with shipping included. Because it was a pre-order (shipments only going through next month), I got offered to download the remainder of the volumes from the website via a one-time download URL. Since I wanted the best quality, I opted for the FLAC files (which I could convert to MP3 easily for the car). I have to say the remainder of the series was totally what I had expected, and I do not regret the purchase whatsoever. I must’ve listened the entire series over twenty times now and I still do not get bored. Ghosts starts from a light, warm-hearted piano solo to an industrial metal-grinding finish that makes you crave for more. Simply put, the volumes are highly original and every track has a different sound and “feel”. The tracks do not have any unique titles whatsoever – they’re just numbers (e.g. “24 Ghosts III”) and that goes for all 36 tracks. For the electronic/industrial/ambient music fans out there, this release is orgasmic. My favourite tracks have to be 9, 31 and 34. I would have to say that the majority of the songs from Ghosts feature that NIN ‘sound’ I have heard over the years from Reznor’s albums and I’m glad to hear them once again. It feels that HALO 26 is a sum of The Fragile, Still and a little bit of The Downward Spiral (in my opinion, anyway). From the soft, melodic piano pieces to the noisy, metal-bashing electronic guitar rifts, Ghosts has a song for every mood and is perfect for those late-night cruises around the neighbourhood.
I could go on and on detailing every track from the series, but I will let the listener decide whether this release is worthy or not. Reznor has definitely polished Ghosts and has given it the NIN feel we all truly love. Some fans might despise the instrumental-only aspect of this HALO, but I always thought a vocal-less song could give the listener the imagination needed to paint the “gaps” where vocals would otherwise be necessary. All in all, I have placed Ghosts among my all-time favourite albums to date, and definitely top 3 Nine Inch Nails releases. I can’t wait to see where Reznor will take this series next.