Review: Nine Inch Nails: 'Another Version of the Truth' DVD


Since Trent Reznor announced Nine Inch Nails' 2009 "Wave Goodbye" shows would be the band's last for the foreseeable future, fans have yearned for a proper document of that final tour – which was also the most technically complex stage presentation in the group's history. Over 400 gigabytes of HD concert footage was professionally shot in early 2009, but sadly a planned 3-D film (reportedly with James Cameron behind the camera) and subsequent 3-DVD set never panned out. Things were looking pretty grim until a dedicated group of fans took matters into their own hands... and the end product of their labor is arguably the best NIN concert video ever released. Read on for a detailed review of Another Version of the Truth: The Gift, and find out how you can get a hold of your own copy... totally free!

As a way of repaying Trent and company for making independent NIN releases Ghosts I-IV and The Slip available as free downloads, a worldwide fan collective teamed up to compile, edit, mix and master the best of the 2008 and 2009 concert footage (the latter another gift from the band to their tech-savvy fans) into a massive multi-format collection. NIN fans are well-known for documenting the band's tours through DIY projects – like the underground favorite Live Essentials series – and they dealt with their disappointment at the cancellation of the official release the only way they knew how: by secretly recording the final Lights in the Sky performance at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas on December 13th, 2008. In a weird moment of synchronicity, the band announced less than a month later that they would be releasing HD footage shot during shows in Victoria, Portland and Sacramento, which anyone could download for free to edit together as they wished.

A team calling themselves “This One Is On Us” (taking their name from Reznor's own free-download policy), comprised of video producers, editors, audio engineers and media designers from all around the world, spent an entire year reviewing the material to craft it into Another Version of the Truth – one of the slickest fan-made band documents ever produced. Last week, the band posted links to download the package in a wide assortment of formats, including Blu-Ray and dual-layer DVD (as burnable ISO files), video files for PS3, iPod and lots more. All of these formats contain the final edit of the HD footage, which clocks in at over 2 hours with more than thirty songs in all.

Much of the material in the first half of the set comes from The Split, including the powerful opening album tracks 99,999/1,000,000 and hard-hitting singles like Letting You, Discipline and Head Down. Also well-represented is Year Zero and the Ghosts series, along with standard favorites from all of the band's previous albums. Of course, all the live standards are represented – including Closer, March of the Pigs, Wish, Terrible Lie, Head Like a Hole and the traditional encore Hurt. But it's not the setlist itself that makes the band's final tour their most memorable... it was the incredibly talented lineup, varied musical styles and arrangements, and a revolutionary multimedia presentation that brings it all home.

If you've ever been to a NIN show, you already know that just being there makes you feel like you're participating in music history... and this final run was the culmination of that idea in more ways than one. The only real way to sum up the career of a band that continually changes the rules of music production, presentation and distribution is to transport the audience to a completely different headspace. Since the days of The Fragile, Trent and crew have used elaborate visual accompaniment to elevate the music to a new level, reaching its technological peak in a video system comprised of massive wire-mesh screens into which thousands of micro-lights are woven – creating a constantly-moving visual environment that surrounds the band in layers of 3-D video images.

Using this technology to align visual themes with the tone of the music being performed, the presentation reaches new levels of subtlety and variation on each new tour. For example, the visuals are matched perfectly to the dark themes of apocalyptic concept album Year Zero, from the surveillance monitors of Survivalism (including one very intense head-banger at the top left who seems unaware he's being filmed... dude, you rock!) to the Blade Runner-inspired landscape of In This Twilight; and the interlocking cryptic symbols from The Slip are at one point transformed into a gigantic real-time sequencer which band members appear to control by touching floating squares of light. Another cool addition is a POV camera focused on Trent during Closer, which transforms his visage into a leering, pixilated ghost straight out Videodrome.

But the most memorable imprint from this concert isn't the result of high-tech trickery; it's the top-notch performances by arguably the band's finest lineup in the past decade – including the return of NIN veteran guitarist Robin Finck and drummer Josh Freese, along with the final appearance of synth master Allesandro Cortini (who left the band during the 2009 tours) and masterful bassist Justin Meldal-Johnson. Not only is the group at their tightest and most rhythmically intense, but the band members demonstrate their skills on an amazing assortment of instruments (including upright bass, vibraphone, banjo and various percussion objects to recreate instrumental tracks from Ghosts) and heighten the crazed, chaotic energy with high-tech improvisation, morphing sounds and visuals on the fly with digital workstations across the massive stage.

Another Version of the Truth is not only the ideal summation of Nine Inch Nails at their finest – bringing together the raw, animal power of Reznor's early work and the groundbreaking technology that makes a NIN ticket worth every penny – but also stands as a monument to the enduring connection between the band and their ardent followers, who share the same openness to new technology and continue to change the way music is made and enjoyed, pushing it into new, unexplored frontiers. But if that's too high-minded an approach for you to deal with and you just want to rock out to one of the greatest bands of all time, I think you'll still be totally satisfied. Plus it's free, for cryin' out loud!

Speaking of which... the Nine Inch Nails website not only provides links to every available format (via torrent, Rapidshare, Hotfile and other methods), but also links to a portfolio of PDF files for DVD package art templates, so you can print out your own DVD case, inserts and booklets for track listing and liner notes. It's obviously being done with the blessing of the band and their management, but due to some potential rights issues with songs recorded on Reznor's former label, it's entirely possible this opportunity won't last forever... so get it while it's hot. If you consider yourself a fan of this band and their history-making output, this one's a no-brainer. Go get it. Right now.