Nine Inch Nails
The Downward Spiral


5.0
classic

Review

by Edmund Blackadder USER (32 Reviews)
August 19th, 2009 | 25 replies


Release Date: 1994 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A furious, relentless musical masterpiece that can truly be considered to be a work of art.

Nine Inch Nails
The Downward Spiral
Nothing Records, 1994

While recording their music, most musicians and artists struggle to fulfill one purpose, and complete one goal. It is a goal that is not strived for by the musicians themselves, it is instead craved for by the listeners, by the fans, by the people who would stand out in the pouring rain for hours just to see their musical hero. This one purpose: emotion. If music contained no emotion, then it would, simply put, not be music, it would just be boring, mismatched sounds wandering aimlessly through a blank aural soundscape. Luckily for rabid fans of music, such as myself, many, many artists have managed to achieve emotion in their songs, whether it be anger, lust, or happiness. Composer, producer, and sole member of industrial group Nine Inch Nails , Trent Reznor, is not only an artist who achieves emotion through his music, but is also somebody who has managed to perfect this musical approach, and make it into something entirely different. An example of this emotional experience can surely be represented by The Downward Spiral , considered by many to be one of the most powerful, emotional albums of all time.

The Downward Spiral is a concept album, plain and simple. It follows a story arc that can be interpreted in many different ways. The music can be used to display different parts of the story, and helps express the feelings of the protagonist, and the feelings of Reznor himself. The story line found here has always been debatable, with many fans deciphering the lyrics in different ways. It is generally accepted, however, that the story follows a man who slowly descends into madness, eventually committing suicide.

The theme described above is created magnificently through Trent Reznor's outstanding lyrics, considered to be some of the best of his career. Most of the lyrical content is depressing, with disturbing imagery and sickly sexual innuendo acting as a springboard for much of the songwriting. 'Reptile' and 'Closer', two magnificent, epic tracks, are prime examples of the explicitly sexual lyrics that may be found here. Religion is another key factor behind Reznor's songwriting, with 'Heresy' bluntly explaining how ridiculous religion can be. In recent interviews, Trent admitted that he was greatly inspired by recording in the house where actress Sharon Tate was murdered to write many of his dark lyrics, often describing this album as 'a soundtrack of destruction'.

Almost all of the music found on this album was recorded by Trent Reznor himself, which makes it all the more impressive. Unlike his debut Pretty Hate Machine , Trent has decided to take a much heavier direction, with pounding keyboard and guitar melodies crashing into the listener with brutal ferocity. Album opener 'Mr. Self Destruct' takes this aggressiveness to all new heights, with obliterating walls of powerful, brutal sound. The drumming drives these powerful soundscapes, with many furious, catchy drum beats interspersed amongst the prominent guitar-synth aural assaults. 'March Of The Pigs' contains some of the quickest, angriest drumming to ever grace my ears, which really escalates the song to new places. As this is considered to be an industrial album, many of the instruments are tweaked to sound like machines. The rhythmic, mechanical musical effects on 'Reptile' are dark and twisted, while the wah-wah guitars on 'Closer' seemingly try to replicate some sort of twisted factory device.

Not all of the songs here are heavy, however, with the slower, softer songs often acting as calm bridges between heavier songs. 'Piggy' is an excellent follow up to the angry opener, with a cool repetitive drum beat following Trent's calm vocals and catchy verses. 'Hurt', the critically praised album closer, is a gorgeous acoustic ballad with heavy, brooding undertones, as well as some brilliant production. There is even a short, ambient song 'A Warm Place', which manages to be quite beautiful and mysterious in it's own unique way.

With The Downward Spiral , Trent Reznor has managed to make one of the most emotional, powerful albums of all time. With it's openly debatable storyline and brilliant composition, this album will surely go down in history as a milestone for industrial music, as well as music in general.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
shindip
August 19th 2009


3536 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

These NIN reviews are just so damn hard to write...

Nagrarok
August 19th 2009


8316 Comments


Review's excellent, even though there are already 4 5's for this. I've never been bothered to REALLY check out NIN, maybe I should try this. You make it sound good.

shindip
August 19th 2009


3536 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

^im doing the discography, and this deserves a 5

EyesWideShut
August 19th 2009


3210 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

good review and one of the 90's best records. Lookin foward for your next ones.

Nagrarok
August 19th 2009


8316 Comments


Discography reviews win. As long as you don't do any discographies I'm planning on, I'm happy. I prefer disco-reviewing as it gives a nice 'n complete overview of the band's development.

edit: comment directed @ shindip

shindip
August 19th 2009


3536 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

^ soooo true. I loved ur Judas Priest reviews btw.

rotterdog
August 19th 2009


489 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Why did you skip the Broken EP? Great review. It's really concise but still detailed.

shindip
August 19th 2009


3536 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Im just sticking to the studio albums. I might review the other stuff later, though.

rotterdog
August 19th 2009


489 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Broken is a pretty classic NIN album. I've never really thought of it as being less important than their LPs. I'd give it a listen if you haven't before.

MassiveAttack
August 19th 2009


2688 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Broken EP is probably his 3rd best work beaten by The Fragile (debatable) and Downward Spiral (his best, a modern classic). This was the 2nd album I bought with my own money knowing nothing about the music itself. It took some getting used to at the age of 13, but I learned to love its depressing, brooding, and extremely cold to warm atmosphere. Really sends chills down my spine how emotional this album is and how damn beautiful it is.

rotterdog
August 19th 2009


489 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I would have absolutely hated this album when I was 13. Relient K was about as heavy as I got (for shame).

Tulannical
August 19th 2009


2051 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I agree with MassiveAttack, the thing that makes this album awesome is the atmosphere. I listened to this cd a lot beginning of freshman year.

sba4life
August 19th 2009


363 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Good Review. I Pos'd


Their best record fo sho

Chewie
August 19th 2009


4533 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I was gunna write one of these one day but now there's too fucking many!

*eye twitchingly angry*

Douchebag
August 19th 2009


3624 Comments


"Review's excellent, even though there are already 4 5's for this. I've never been bothered to REALLY check out NIN, maybe I should try this. You make it sound good."

That's exactly the situation i'm in. I've even seen this album cheap everywhere yet I never pick it up...

Chewie
August 19th 2009


4533 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

BUY IT

AtavanHalen
August 19th 2009


17927 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I've even seen this album cheap everywhere yet I never pick it up...

I'd base that more on the fact you're an idiot than anything else.

scyther
August 19th 2009


1606 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Decent review of a perfectly executed concept, which I think you should have elaborated on more deeply.

Douchebag
August 19th 2009


3624 Comments


"I'd base that more on the fact you're an idiot than anything else."

Would you shut the fuck up? Perhaps I had other albums I wanted to hear first? Imagine that!

TrojanWhore
August 19th 2009


752 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I've had to bump this to a five. Over the last 4 or so years, it has become timeless in my eyes.



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