What would you do if you've single-handedly made one of the greatest industrial albums ever? If you're Trent Reznor, you barely eat, go on a drug binge, and record a double album. The Fragile
is the result of this, and the five year gap between The Downward Spiral
and 1999, when he released this beast of a record. Contained inside are two discs filled with dark, brooding music. Within hide some of Reznor's finest moments, from angry shout-fests in traditional industrial fashion, to short, piano ballads far from most anything he'd done previously. Much like Roger Waters poured himself into The Wall
, Trent pours his pent up aggression, alienation, and sometimes depression into this sprawling work. Like Floyd's double-disc classic, the sequencing here was done by Bob Ezrin, who was credited with "Final continuity and flow."
Flow it does, as one seething piece of music transfers smoothly to the next, and proceeds to add layer upon layer of tracks until it feels as though you're going to smother in a heavy pile of distorted guitars, pounding drums, and angst ridden vocals. The 'Left' disc kicks off with Somewhat Damaged
and starts with one instrument, then builds upon it until it takes your fingers and
toes to count them all. It's quite a lovely process, if I do say so myself. Reznor then graces the track with his vocals, which start out soft and soothing, and then grow into a fire-spitting delivery that would make nu-metal screamers jealous. "Too fucked up to care anymore!!"
makes complete sense, as this is him just letting go, uncaring of what comes of it. The Wretched
pulses and pounds away with some rather unhappy sounding piano and distorted percussion. Lyrics are once again delivered in the Reznor way, loudly and oozing rancor. The 'Right' disc opens with The Way Out is Through
, which starts out near silent, and over the course of about half the song, slowly grows into a thrashing beast. The ending brings "fragile" vocals, as the song dies down with some gentle keys.
Some truely wonderful moments come when Trent just shuts up and lets the music do the talking. The instrumentals here are all well composed and near equally enjoyable. The Frail
is a short, gentle piano piece, that serves as both a great standalone track and intro into The Wretched. Just like You Imagined
starts out with some piano, as well, but soon goes into pounding percussion and haunting whispers, before exploding into distorted strings and screeching guitar. There's a little break in the middle with some more key-twiddling, which is short and sweet. Then it goes right back to industrial mode, with it's grating guitar and ever changing riffs. It ends just as gently as it began, as some piano takes it out. Pilgrimage
is more than likely the weakest member here. It sounds like a rally of some sort, Nazi or otherwise. It's very noisy, with riffs distorted and twisted like none other. The Mark has been Made
is one of the best instrumentals not only here, but in all of Reznor's career. The easiest way to describe it is like an acid trip in the middle of the desert. It's quite a fitting description, I must say. It starts off slow, as you ingest the drug, and slowly builds up as it starts to take effect. Once it's fully registered in your bloodstream, it pounds away as guitars tweek all around you. Then it gets heavier and more distorted, as you're not sure what's going on. After it's peak, it starts dying down and you stop thinking those unicorns are after you. Complication
sounds more like intelligent dance music than anything, with it's speedy tempo and thumping bass. Ripe (With Decay)
is greatly similar to A Warm Place, in that it's highly ambient. This is a very dark sort of ambience, unlike said song, and very brooding. Several strings come together and weave in and out as it retains it's dark sound. A bit of soothing vocals from Trent mark the near end, and some strummed guitar.
is home to some of NIN's greatest songs to date. We're in This Together
is a seven minute monster, which features the great chorus of a heavy, distorted riff and the shouting of "You and me, we're in this together now!! None of them can stop us now! We will make it through somehow!"
It's quite touching, when you get past the heavy sound and think about. Much like the hugely successful Closer, from The Downward Spiral
, this features a volley of instrumental doodling that Trent is so great at. The end is also similar to Closer, with a light piano melody played softly. This leads into The Fragile
, another one of the album's stand out tracks. A rare occurence is when the lyrics are in the third person, such as here. The bass drum sounds as if it's got a wad of broken glass inside of it, and the chorus features "I won't let you fall apart"
on top of that industrial guitar. This all makes sense, when you remember the interview where Trent said "There's a general theme to the album of systems failing and things sort of falling apart."
A guitar solo follows towards the end, with the same melody as The Frail, and it sounds great. La Mer
is another album best, with a subtle piano tune, looped repeatedly behind some higher notes. There's a bit of female vocals in French and then the rest is instrumental. A fairly beautiful track, actually, definitely a high point. The Great Below
closes out the first disc, and is similar in style to the infinitely great Hurt, though nothing can top it. It's a slow burner, with gentle vocals and some very wonderful cello. It's a great song, and beats out Ripe (With Decay) as the albums best disc closer.
Much like The Wall
and double albums before it, The Fragile
suffers from filler fever. All double albums have filler and bad songs. It's an unwritten rule, and this is no exception. Most, if not all of it, is located on the 'Right' disc, the vastly inferior of the two. Starfuckers, Inc.
is a blaring example, as it's just nothing special. It was originally a b-side for a reason, and it should've stayed that way. It's essentially a shot at Marilyn Manson, with multiple vocal takes being strung together, poking fun at Mansons inability to lay down proper vocals in a minimal of takes. Please
, while a decent enough song, doesn't really do anything for me. It's sort of a 'meh' song. I'm Looking Forward to Joining You, Finally
is another one of those not so great songs. It's slow, and a little dull, to be honest. There are several songs that could've been deemed not strong enough to stay, and this could've been cut down to a near perfect single disc. Sadly enough, it wasn't, so you'll just have to live with it. It doesn't bring it down too much, but prevents it from being better than it is.
Even with said filler intact, The Fragile
is a great album. The good moments way more than make up for the bad ones. Some songs are absolute gems, and others could've been thrown away. Regardless, this is definitely worth a listen. The mood is very dark and sometimes depressed, but that's sort of what Trent does. The Downward Spiral
was great too, but I feel the moments of grace here are superior to those. When you sit back and listen to this bloated rage filled album, you become engrossed in the many different layers of sounds and effects. It's almost hypnotizing, and a testament to how great Reznor is as a musician. The talent to make songs like these is apparent, and to make them enjoyable and great at the same time is praiseworthy. Definitely an album to check into, it blends moments of grating hatred with moments of pure beauty and glee. This is angry music the way it's supposed to be done, not with backwards caps and turntables, but with a one man band, large ammounts of compositional skill, and some compassion sprinkled on top.