ENDURANCE is something that you hope for from your musical idols.
Where some burn bright and burn out, some blast with their initial intensity before delivering a set of ever-diminishing returns — testing your patience and your fandom until you just have to step away.
Occasionally, one will return from the wilderness and blow everything away, as if they had never left.
And so it is with the return to the live and recorded arena by Nine Inch Nails, music’s most ambitious one-man technological assault on rock.
The seismic arrival on the industrial scene of Nine Inch Nails back in 1988 had results that rippled throughout the Nineties and Noughties, as well as delivering some of the most intense, and intensely rewarding, live shows of those decades.
Each iteration of the band and its sound over the years was matched by a hugely imaginative and innovative live show, ending (for the time being) with the astonishing Lights In The Sky tour in 2008.
Reznor retired the band in 2009, saying he wanted it to disappear for a while, but that was not to say that he stopped working.
An Oscar, acclaimed movie soundtracks and a remarkable side project, How To Destroy Angels, have kept Reznor in the spotlight, and now the time has come to return NIN to centre stage.
The better part of the opening half of new album Hesitation Marks has been road-tested and will be familiar to fans who have seen any of the band’s frankly astonishing live festival performances in recent months.
Taking inspiration from Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense tour, the drama and power of the 2013 vintage NIN is written large on the stage’s screens and in the impressive staging of a fan’s dream setlist.
Apparent from the new songs is that Reznor has lost none of his way around a great tune in the three years “off”.
If anything, there is almost a more conventional edge to several of the songs here, most notably on Everything, a three-minute wonder that sits perfectly within their catalogue, in spite of its pop feel.
Or maybe it is that the rest of music and cutting-edge electronica have finally started catching up with Reznor’s imagination.
Everything that NIN were and are so treasured for, however — their anger and their energy, their angst and darkness — are never far from the surface.
Copy Of A displays all of the pristine electronic edges and shadows present on Downward Spiral, while Came Back Haunted’s massive synths and distortion-driven guitars rumble with a thrilling velocity.
Immersed in the sleek electronic beats and menacing tonescapes is the essential humanity and expression that have, and always will, make NIN beloved and essential, the emotion behind the chrome the connection to the worlds that Reznor creates.
It is hard art for a digital age, with no hesitation or limitation.