Trent Reznor / Atticus Ross / Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross

Watchmen, Vol. 3

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The third and final installment of Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross' Watchmen soundtrack closes the time-bending and mind-warping HBO series with as much quality as its two predecessors. Watchmen, Vol. 3 includes the same deft blend of songs that sound like Nine Inch Nails B-sides ("Doomsday Prepper," "Clockmaker") and ominous soundscapes that amplify the dread ("Nothing Ever Ends," "Which Came First"). Overall, this set is the most subdued -- action-seekers will enjoy Vol. 1 -- and the bulk of these plaintive tracks take a back seat to the flurry of activity and twists from the season's closing episodes. Notable standouts include the luxurious jazz vocal number "The Way It Used to Be," featuring vocalist Laura Dickinson, and Reznor & Ross' clever spin on George Michael's 1984 hit "Careless Whisper," the bleak, period-appropriate "No Rhythm." With an understated impact, the album ends on a pair of moving, emotionally resonant highlights. "Lincoln Tunnel" -- a climactic moment both onscreen and for this soundtrack series -- patiently builds to a choir-backed, feedback-drenched peak, haunting, sad, and devastating all at once. With a clever nod to the whereabouts of a major character, Reznor & Ross end with an instrumental reimagining of David Bowie's "Life on Mars?" Bittersweet and tender, it leaves listeners with the sense that the possibilities are wide open, just like the show's final episode. For such a short season of television, Reznor & Ross created an immersive and fully realized sonic world. That vision and its near-perfect execution results in an unforgettable soundtrack experience and one of the best works -- NIN or otherwise -- that this prolific duo have produced to date.

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