Not the Actual Events
EP by
ReleasedDecember 22, 2016 (2016-12-22)
LabelThe Null Corporation
Nine Inch Nails chronology
Halo I–IV
Not the Actual Events
The Fragile: Deviations 1
Halo numbers chronology
"Halo 28"
"Halo 29"
"Halo 30"

Not the Actual Events is the fifth extended play (EP) and tenth major release by American industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails. It was released physically on December 23, 2016, under Trent Reznor's own label The Null Corporation, while those who had pre-ordered received a download link a day early.[1] The second Nine Inch Nails EP of original material following Broken (1992), it marks longtime collaborator Atticus Ross's first appearance as an official member of the band. The digital pre-orders included a "physical component" that was shipped in early March 2017.[2] The EP is the first in a trilogy released in 2016–2018, preceding Add Violence (2017) and the band's ninth studio album Bad Witch (2018).

The EP received positive reviews from critics, who praised the return to Nine Inch Nails' older, more abrasive sound, and debuted at number 26 in the US.


In an interview promoting Apple Music, Trent Reznor mentioned he has started "messing around with some things" in regard to a new Nine Inch Nails album, stating, "It's not a record I'm trying to finish in a month. It's more just feeling around in the dark and seeing what sounds interesting."[3][4] In December 2015, Reznor reported that "Nine Inch Nails will return in 2016".[5] He and Atticus Ross later scored the soundtracks for Before the Flood and Patriots Day in 2016.

In December 2016, Reznor commented on his statement regarding Nine Inch Nails' return by the end of the year: "Those words did come out of my mouth, didn't they? [...] Just wait and see what happens."[6] Three days later, Reznor announced Not the Actual Events,[1] along with reissues of Nine Inch Nails' previous releases.[7]

In June 2017, in an email that was issued out to customers waiting on delayed vinyl orders, Reznor confirmed that Not the Actual Events would actually make up the first part of a trilogy of EPs, with the second installment entitled Add Violence being released July 2017. The final EP of the trilogy grew into a studio album, Bad Witch, which was later released on June 22, 2018.


The EP marks a return to Nine Inch Nails' 1990s sound,[8] departing from the texture and groove-oriented style of the previous album, Hesitation Marks.[9] Nevertheless, it also preserves electronic elements of the Hesitation Marks and Year Zero, but features "more organic elements" such as "noisy guitars, nostalgic piano lines and heavily distorted bass used on The Fragile and With Teeth."[10] Reznor described the record as "an unfriendly, fairly impenetrable record that we needed to make."[8] The sound of the EP has also been labeled as industrial metal.[11]

"Burning Bright (Field on Fire)" "Burning Bright (Field on Fire)" showcases the EP's noise and overwhelming atmosphere. Problems playing this file? See media help.

The intro track, "Branches/Bones", features the modern polished production[12] and formulae of Nine Inch Nails' post-The Fragile output.[8] It was compared to previous NIN tracks, including "1,000,000", "Discipline",[8] "Wish" and "Starfuckers, Inc.".[12] "Dear World," is a synthesizer-driven track,[8] enhanced by sequencers and percussion as Reznor "speaks his thoughts on the downward path the society has taken."[10] “She’s Gone Away” features guest vocals from Reznor’s wife, How to Destroy Angels vocalist Mariqueen Maandig.[13] The song was specifically written for then-upcoming Twin Peaks series, at the request of David Lynch.[14] Dave Grohl drums on "The Idea of You", which has been described as "a merger of industrial and alternative rock;[13] the track also features a drum solo and polyrhythmic chorus.[12] "Burning Bright (Field on Fire)" is a sludge track[8] and has been compared to the music of Godflesh.[15][13]

Reznor said of creating the EP:

Something that we have always felt strongly about is the role of what we call rock has been one that should feel untethered and filled with expression and uncompromised and at times challenging. In general, it seems from my perspective, and I feel Atticus feels the same way, that most entertainment, particularly music is pretty boring. Certainly, rock is boring. A lot of what's blessed as "the cool thing" feels pretty generic and also feels, a lot of it, like a desperate plea for commercial airplay and success. That combined with just our own worldview and a kind of daydream I was having led to "let's make a record that feels challenging, and exciting to us"... I wanted the music to sound kind of ugly and to sound unfriendly, not suck you in with a sexy hook.[16]


Physical component

The digital pre-orders included a "physical component" that was due to be shipped in January 2017 but was delayed until March. It featured a black envelope containing liner notes on card posts along with a see-through photograph of Reznor and Ross. The release was controversial as it contained some form of black powder. A warning label stuck on the back of the envelope read:

To be read IN ITS ENTIRETY before opening. Actions have consequences! N.T.A.E. may contain subversive elements that produce feelings of euphoria and may be harmful and unsettling to the consumer. Likewise, this physical package may lead to unrealized expectations or unexpected results upon opening. Caution should be exercised with both. AND THIS IS IMPORTANT… This will make a mess. By opening this envelope in any way, you assume all risks to your person and/or property, and waive any claim against The Null Corporation, any of its subsidiaries or affiliated entities from any and all damages or harm you may incur.[2]


The pre-orders for the vinyl version were released in August 2017.[17] The vinyl A-Side contains the five tracks listed in the track listing, while the B-Side consists of the final three tracks of The Downward Spiral ("Reptile", "The Downward Spiral", and "Hurt") recorded in reverse.[18]

Critical reception

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Review scores
AllMusic3/5 stars[21]
The A.V. ClubB-[12]
Alternative Press4/5 stars[15]
Consequence of SoundC[13]
Sputnikmusic4/5 stars[10]

Critical reception for the EP was generally positive. At Metacritic, which assigns a rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album has received an average score of 74, based on 14 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[20]

Jason Pettigrew of Alternative Press praised the record, describing it as "everything we would expect from Reznor and Ross, offering textures we’ve never visited and contexts with conscience."[15] Consequence of Sound critic Zoe Camp thought that the EP "stands, alas, as a pyre dependent on the kindling of nostalgia, as opposed to innovation," and wrote: "between the abundant déja vu and the periodical redundancy, Not the Actual Events' purported 'impenetrability' manifests as a riotous retread instead."[13] Pitchfork's Benjamin Scheim described it as "slight", but stated: "At moments it delivers the kind of visceral fury that NIN hasn't recreated since its mid-'90s Downward Spiral heyday."[8] Sputnikmusic staff writer Raul Stanciu praised the record, writing: "The fairly impenetrable wall of sound Nine Inch Nails created here is admirable, especially since everything is presented in just over 21 minutes."[10] AllMusic senior critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine thought that "it seems somewhat less than the sum of its parts -- maybe it's the brevity, maybe it's how the arrangements are more memorable than the melodies -- it's nevertheless worthy, not so much as a cacophonous palette cleanser after 2013's Hesitation Marks but as an effective demonstration of craft."[21]

Ian Gormely of Exclaim! thought that "there is a more atmospheric quality to these songs that adds a sense of dread to the proceedings, pushing these songs beyond album filler material." Gormely also wrote that the tracks "felt like tentative first steps towards something bigger, rather than offering a bold new step in Reznor's long, winding career."[22] The A.V. Club critic Dan Bogosian wrote: "Even with its moments of flawed excess, Not the Actual Events is so full of new ideas compared to the relatively 'this again?' nature of Hesitation Marks or The Slip that it deserves its place in the NIN catalog." Bogosian also stated that the release "might be the beginning of something greater."[12] Describing the record as "probably the grimiest Nine Inch Nails release since The Fragile, Spin's Winston Cook-Wilson wrote: "Rather than running the gamut between overdriven steamrolling and receding, glitchy ambience as on most of the work Reznor loosed between 1994 and 2008, the EP realizes a specific, portentous mood from several equivalent angles."[23]

Track listing

All tracks are written by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.

2."Dear World,"4:06
3."She's Gone Away"6:00
4."The Idea of You"3:26
5."Burning Bright (Field on Fire)"5:50
Total length:21:08


Credits adapted from the liner notes of Not the Actual Events.[24][25]



  1. ^ a b Nine Inch Nails [@nineinchnails] (December 16, 2016). "Not The Actual Events EP out 23 Dec. Preorder now. 180g Vinyl and Limited Digital + Physical Component version." (Tweet). Retrieved December 16, 2016 – via Twitter.
  2. ^ a b Joe DiVita (March 2, 2017). "What Is This Black Powder Package Nine Inch Nails are Mailing to Fans?". Loudwire. Retrieved March 9, 2017.
  3. ^ Kory Grow (June 30, 2015). "Trent Reznor on Apple Music: Other Services 'Left Me Feeling Lacking'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved May 25, 2017.
  4. ^ "Trent Reznor Speaks Out On Apple Music, New Nine Inch Nails". July 2, 2015. Retrieved July 6, 2015.
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  6. ^ "Trent Reznor Talks New Nine Inch Nails, Boundary-Pushing Soundtracks". Rolling Stone. Retrieved December 17, 2016.
  7. ^ "All Nine Inch Nails Records Being Reissued On Vinyl". December 16, 2016. Retrieved December 17, 2016.
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  9. ^ Wood, Mikael (December 22, 2016). "Nine Inch Nails is back — again — with 'Not the Actual Events'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 19, 2017.
  10. ^ a b c d Stanciu, Raul. "Nine Inch Nails – Not the Actual Events". Sputnikmusic. Retrieved December 29, 2016.
  11. ^ Rowe, Riley (January 10, 2017). "EP Review: Nine Inch Nails – Not the Actual Events". Metal Injection. Retrieved January 18, 2017.
  12. ^ a b c d e Bogosian, Dan (January 2, 2017). "Nine Inch Nails starts anew on Not the Actual Events". The A.V. Club. Retrieved January 9, 2017.
  13. ^ a b c d e Camp, Zoe. "Nine Inch Nails – Not the Actual Events EP". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved December 29, 2016.
  14. ^ Kim, Michelle (September 17, 2017). "Nine Inch Nails Pitched a "Twin Peaks" Song That Wasn't "Ugly" Enough for David Lynch'". Pitchfork. Retrieved September 18, 2017.
  15. ^ a b c Pettigrew, Jason (December 23, 2016). "Nine Inch Nails – Not the Actual Events". Alternative Press. Retrieved January 9, 2017.
  16. ^ Leight, Elias (July 13, 2017). "Nine Inch Nails Preview 'Add Violence' EP With Driving New Song". Rolling Stone. Retrieved March 19, 2018.
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  21. ^ a b Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Nine Inch Nails – Not the Actual Events". AllMusic. Retrieved March 4, 2017.
  22. ^ a b Gormely, Ian (December 28, 2016). "Nine Inch Nails – Not the Actual Events". Exclaim!. Retrieved December 29, 2016.
  23. ^ Cook-Wilson, Winston (January 3, 2017). "Review: Nine Inch Nails' Not the Actual Events Is a Good Sign for What's to Come in 2017". Spin. Retrieved January 9, 2017.
  24. ^ Not the Actual Events (liner notes). Nine Inch Nails. The Null Corporation. 2016.CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  25. ^ "Dave Grohl drums on Nine Inch Nails' new EP, Not the Actual Events". Consequence of Sound. December 23, 2016. Retrieved December 23, 2016.
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  28. ^ "Nine Inch Nails Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved January 4, 2017.
  29. ^ "Nine Inch Nails Chart History (Independent Albums)". Billboard. Retrieved January 4, 2017.
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  31. ^ "Nine Inch Nails Chart History (Top Rock Albums)". Billboard. Retrieved January 1, 2017.
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