Review Summary: "...an enjoyable personal journey that manages to captivate you, even if it is somewhat damaged."
Ambience in nature and warm vibes are some of my favourite things on this planet, and when the essence of that is put into music it can either be a hit or miss for me depending on how it's executed, add some meaningful songwriting and a somber undertone - sure, why not? It's always nice to hear some genuine artistic expression.
Especially if you're going to sit there for a long time like with The Fragile, which is the 1999 record by Nine Inch Nails - an album that's nearly two hours, but does every song contribute something?
The vocals do not stand out as anything unique or mind-blowing to me, but they do what they are supposed to do in terms of the vulnerability and gritty nature presented throughout especially on tracks like "The Day The World Went Away" and "The Wretched" and "We're In This Together" - all songs that I also found easy to listen to for the most part.
In my opinion, the vocals that Trent Reznor gives us so aggressively are not as enjoyable as the more melodic and somber moments, they just pair much better with the theme and subject matter of this project in my opinion - I especially love that type of feeling shown on songs such as "The Great Below", "La Mer" and "I'm Looking Foward to Joining You, Finally" - which is probably my favourite out of all of them.
Even some tranquil instrumentals like "The Frail" and "Ripe (With Decay)" - they are just so relaxing and add so much heart and flow of what seems like a diary.
The more violent vocals are also enjoyable when there's a build-up like shown on "The Way Out Is Through", "Underneath it All" and the title track, it gives the album and up and down sense of gloom and frustration which I really do quite like.
When it comes to the production of this album, it is probably one of the most important aspects; it gets very creative in its structure and the added electronic beats and synthesizers just paint a picture that I can only describe as layered, rich, attention-grabbing and even startling at times - and I absolutely love some of the pianos and acoustic guitars on here, it makes it feel like a composition that has endless thought put into it, quite melancholy.
Now, one of my biggest gripes with this album is the distortion that is on both the aggressive vocals and instrumentation, which is common on a lot of those type of songs; although it's intentional I do not believe it is for everyone and makes some songs on the first quarter of the project and other songs like "The Mark Has Been Made" and "Please" very hard for me to enjoy, even after multiple listens - although there are some moments I can get behind, it's still not the type of thing I would blast everyday, it's not really for that in my eyes - it is more of an expressive experience.
Speaking of expressive, the lyrics do a very good job at that and is probably the shining point of the album besides the more creative production; it talks about a lot of personal topics like battling inner demons or social anxiety that is not really portrayed in a cheesy or overly angsty manner;
"I woke up today,
to find myself in the other place.
With a trail of footprints.
From where I ran away.
Seems everything I've heard might be true,
and you know me.
(Well, you think you do)
Sometimes, I hate everything.
Yet I wish I felt something."
There is also a funny dig on Marilyn Manson on "Starf-ckers Inc." which is one of the more enjoyable upbeat tracks. There is bounty of instrumentals on this album that I surprisingly enjoyed a lot, some even more than tracks with vocals! Though the worst of the worst would have to be "The Big Come Down", it just comes across as a big mess to me.
This is definitely an album worth giving a shot to see if you would enjoy it just for the sheer creativity and thoughtfulness alone, I can see why people would place it as one of the band's best efforts but the trademark distortion just is not fit for both mine and some people's tastes - overall it is an enjoyable personal journey that manages to captivate you, even if it is somewhat damaged.
The unique production, the lyrics, the atmosphere, The Day the World Went Away, The Frail, The Fragile, Pilgrimage, La Mer, Starf-ckers Inc., I'm Looking Forward to Joining You Finally, Ripe (With Decay)
The distortion, all other tracks
Daddy's Little Girl: I'm Looking Forward to Joining You, Finally
The Son I Never Wanted: The Big Come Down