Hesitation Marks (also known as Halo 28) is the ninth studio album from Nine Inch Nails. It was released on September 3, 2013 in a total of five formats: CD, Deluxe Edition CD, vinyl, digital and iTunes Deluxe Edition. The album was recorded secretly over the course of a year and came as a complete surprise to fans. On August 26th, 2013, the full album was leaked on the internet, and was made available for streaming on iTunes the following day.
The album was made available in three different masters for digital download: a "standard" version, an "Audiophile Mastered Version" and a master specific to the high resolution HDtracks service (the latter two having extended dynamic range, not meant to be competitive in the loudness war.)
Deluxe Edition CD
The Deluxe Edition CD includes the following remixes on a second disc:
It also comes in a 28 page hardcover ecolbook. This is the only packaging that includes lyrics and the booklet contains significantly more artwork than that of the standard CD.
iTunes/HDtracks Deluxe Edition
The iTunes and HDtracks Deluxe Edition includes the above remixes as tracks 15-17 plus an interview as track 18:
The self-conducted interview also includes several demos from the album:
The Japanese standard CD includes an exclusive bonus remix as track 15:
The double vinyl release splits sides between "Find My Way" and "All Time Low", "Everything" and "Satellite", and "Running" and "I Would For You". It also contains the album on CD, as was the case with How To Destroy Angels' Welcome Oblivion.
"I've been less than honest about what I’ve really been up to lately. For the last year I’ve been secretly working non-stop with Atticus Ross and Alan Moulder on a new, full-length Nine Inch Nails record, which I am happy to say is finished and frankly fucking great. This is the real impetus and motivation behind the decision to assemble a new band and tour again. My forays into film, HTDA and other projects really stimulated me creatively and I decided to focus that energy on taking Nine Inch Nails to a new place. Here we go!"
It was then officially announced via Twitter on June 5, 2013, the day before the release of its first single, Came Back Haunted. Nine Inch Nails signed with Columbia Records in 2013, making this the first album on a major label since Year Zero.
During the month of August, the tracks "Copy Of A", "Everything" and "Find My Way" were also made available through various online sources. "Copy Of A" and "Everything" were then released as commercial digital singles via Amazon and iTunes on August 20th. A teaser trailer featuring "The Eater Of Dreams" and a look at the album's packaging was posted on August 26th.
Inspiration and recording
The album began as a couple of tracks that were meant to be included in a forthcoming greatest hits package for Interscope Records. The sessions gave way to more songs and ended up yielding an entire album. At one point during the album's creation, producer Markus Dravs was brought in to add a different perspective from Reznor's long-term team of Atticus Ross and Alan Moulder. The collaboration didn't feel right, however, and was terminated.
In an interview with The Guardian, Reznor revealed that the two songs originally written and recorded for the hits package were "Everything" and "Satellite". He also explained what inspired, in his view, a more minimal and sparse treatment of the music:
"What I found the most inspiring was sitting with just a drum machine in my bedroom, in my office. Not having a keyboard or a guitar and playing everything on pads. Me sitting alone with literally one piece of gear just messing around, I found it exciting. It lent to the minimal edge, because it didn't feel like it needed more."
The album title is a term for wounds that are sometimes made when a person is contemplating suicide by wrist cutting. Fans have speculated that this is either a reference to Reznor being not quite ready to put NIN to rest, or a reference to the fact that the album is conceptually an "upward spiral" and a reflection of the fact that Reznor did not end up killing himself when he was at his lowest point.
Relation to The Downward Spiral
In interviews with The New York Times and SPIN, Reznor stated that he had The Downward Spiral in mind as he worked on Hesitation Marks:
"I felt very aware that it's 20 years later, and I'm still that guy. I know that guy, and I feel for him. I don't resent him, I don't miss him. But how would things feel on the other side of that now, in a much more stable life place, mentally and physically, and with a new family? The incentive has changed. It's not about, 'I'm going to kill myself if I don't get this out of my head.' But the excavation and the architecture behind it, the motivation behind it, is similar."
"For some reason, when I started working more on Hesitation Marks, I started thinking back romantically about who I was when I was writing The Downward Spiral. I was looking back on who I was then and who I am now and how things have turned out, for better or worse. That was the air the new record was born in. I was looking at the other side of how I was not always honest about who I was in the '90s — and I knew I wasn't being honest — and if you sprinkle those negative feelings with some drugs and alcohol, it's usually not a recipe for success."
In the self-interview included with the iTunes Deluxe Edition of Hesitation Marks, Reznor spoke of the intentional link that was made between the artwork of the two albums:
"Now in terms of making that connection more literal to Downward Spiral, the choice of reaching out to Russell Mills, later in the process, to actually provide the artwork was certainly a conscious trail of breadcrumbs. The choice of using the same font — we were making the connection here."
This album marks a return to the artwork of Russell Mills, whose work was previously used for March Of The Pigs, The Downward Spiral, Further Down The Spiral and Closure. There is a different cover for each of the five editions. Reznor stated in a radio interview that he couldn't choose between the various covers and decided to use them all. He also stated that Mills had suggested the album title.
Some of the alternate covers are used within the packaging of the other editions, i.e. the cover of the standard CD is inside the gatefold of the vinyl, the cover of the iTunes Deluxe Edition is on the booklet of the standard CD, etc. The covers of the international and Japanese standard CDs are a variation on the cover of the US standard CD, with the painting oriented sideways and, in the case of the Japanese cover, photographed from a slightly different vantage point and lighter in hue. The digital Audiophile Mastered Version cover is a variation on the standard digital cover, with the painting again oriented sideways.
In a post on the official NIN Tumblr account, the various artwork was elaborated on by Mills:
"The artworks, (30 mixed media pieces) that I eventually produced towards uses in the Hesitation Marks releases, evolved out of lengthy exchanges between myself and Trent and in response to the conceptual ideas that thread through the tracks and to the sonic territory that the album explores. I’ve tried to lock into the album’s prevailing mood and echo the album’s essence. The ideas are not communicated in a literal or easily digested form, as this would be boring for me and would insult the intelligence of a potential audience. I’ve tried to make works that obliquely allude to the essence of the subject matter, to its emotional core.
Cargo In The Blood
A limited edition art book/multiple containing Mills' art for Hesitation Marks was released in December 2015. It was priced at $300 and the following information was given on the site set up at cargointheblood.com:
"Nine Inch Nails and long-time collaborator and artist Russell Mills present Cargo In The Blood, a deluxe, limited edition 320-page book collecting all of the works the artist created for Nine Inch Nails’ Hesitation Marks album. Each volume also includes an original mixed media painting created by Russell Mills specifically for the project. Available exclusively on NIN.com, Cargo In The Blood is limited to 2000 copies and will be available to order 12/16/15 10am PT."
A 10 minute film about the inspiration and process for the artwork of Cargo In The Blood as well as Mills' work for The Downward Spiral was also made available for viewing.
For more information, see NIN 2013-2014
The album was supported by a major tour that visited festivals and arenas around the world. For the Tension 2013 Tour, the touring lineup was expanded to eight members (the largest in the history of the band and the first to utilize backup singers) and the visual elements were a logical continuation of those from the Lights In The Sky Tour. The tour also included two co-headlining legs, one with Queens Of The Stone Age and one with Soundgarden. Several shows were filmed for inclusion in a DVD and Blu-ray package, though the current status of the project is unknown.
All Hesitation Marks songs have been played live except "Everything", though it has been played at rehearsals for the Tension 2013 tour.
Deluxe Edition Remix Credits
"Find My Way" (Oneohtrix Point Never Remix)