After having previously lent their musical prowess to The Social Network, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross continue in this vein for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, carving out their niche as masters of the suspense thriller genre with a collection of 39 (yes, 39) songs.
Clocking in at nearly three hours long, this is an album that requires a full sitting (preferably on a cloudy afternoon or a stormy late night) to truly appreciate. Beginning with an industrialized version of “Immigrant Song” by Led Zeppelin that features Karen O of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the album establishes the same tone set by the film’s intro credits right from the get-go: tortured, frantic, and foreboding. Continuing in a series of chilling, ethereal compositions, this album evokes the darker elements of the human psyche.
Its combination of intricate instrumentation, riveting synthesizer effects, and haunting vocals recreates the tension and threatening atmosphere of the film, with much left to the imagination of the listener. This is not an album you would want to play at a dinner party—or any party, for that matter. This is an album for being alone at your darkest, deadliest hour.
The only other lyrical performance here comes from Reznor and Ross’s recent collaboration as How to Destroy Angels. “Is Your Love Strong Enough”, a cover of Brian Ferry, plays over the end credits of the film and occupies the final place on this album. Featuring Reznor’s wife Mariqueen Maandig and accompanying vocals by Reznor himself, the song soars above the previous tracks as the longing plea of a woman for her lover to be there for her in her time of need, reflecting the relationship between the film’s protagonists as the screen goes dark. Though it makes more sense in the context of the film, the track sends this album out on a hopeful note, redeeming it for its past two hours and 49 minutes of chilling the dark corridors of the mind.
For anyone who has never had the stomach or patience to get through a Nine Inch Nails album, this collection may be potent enough to expand your musical palette into Reznor’s world. Fans of his Ghosts collection, The Social Network, and other film and video game projects will undoubtedly consume this wholeheartedly, and will likely find themselves anticipating future How to Destroy Angels releases, not to mention Fincher’s next two adaptations of the Millennium series.