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Nine Inch Nails-The Downward Spiral ALBUM REVIEW

Written Before Review

For the beginning of the year, I decided to bring the classics in. This time around, we’ll be reviewing one of the most influential albums of the 90s. Nine Inch Nails’ ‘The Downward Spiral’. This is a band that you rather love or dislike. I don’t know if I love NIN as a whole, but I love this album. Why? Well, without further ado, let’s get into it.

Nine Inch Nails’ Place In Music

Nine Inch Nails have a place in music that no one else really does. Surely people like Killing Joke and Janes Addiction took post-punk and metal influences together to make dark rock, and Marilyn Manson took shock rock like NIN to a whole other level, Nine Inch Nails had the commercial success that no other person making that music could. The songs “Hurt” and “Closer” alone are two songs that defined the 90s. Even compared to the underground industrial acts, This album is pretty dark and uncomfortable. I don’t know how Trent Reznor did it, but he did.


Now let’s talk about the music itself, Nine Inch Nails did defy a genre label but this album is an Industrial Rock and Metal album that took influence from electronic music and art rock. The instrumentation was all over the place but with tracks like “Mr Self Destruct”, “Heresy” and “I Do Not Want This”, the mixing and mastering are brought to noisy levels to the brink of clipping and distorting. Not to mention that Trent Reznor was the sole performer in almost all aspects. There were some occasional guest musicians. Adrian Belew from Tom Tom Club and King Crimson fame does guitar on “Mr Self Destruct” and “The Becoming”. Flood who helped produce artists like Nick Cave, Depeche Mode (the early 90s), PJ Harvey, The Smashing Pumpkins and other acts that could be considered in the darker side of rock music also helped produce this album. The drummer of Janes Addiction Stephen Perkins did the drums on “I Do Not Want This” as well. Other than that Trent Reznor, did all of it on his own. Yep…he did it before Tame Impala did.


The concept might not be the strongest part of this album but, it does deliver in a story-like manner. Trent Reznor said he was inspired by Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” which makes complete sense due to the protagonist’s misanthropic take on the world, and the operatic feel to it. It shows the protagonist’s journey into complete madness. Starting from something that happened in the protagonist’s life, he becomes anti-religious on “Heresy” and starts devoting his life knowing that he’s going to hell. He then decides to isolate himself from society, despite wanting to rape multiple women. Knowing what he’s doing is wrong, he feels being taken control over, no real emotions from him. He then contemplates suicide over and over again going through ups and downs until he finally attempts it, and it is unknown to figure out if he failed his attempt or went through it. As you can see, this is not your usual concept album, this is a dark, haunting, and scary concept to follow.


We’ve talked about the lyrical aspect, now let’s talk about the sonics of this album. The song “Closer” itself is a drift away from NIN’s Industrial Rock and Metal stylings and creates an Industrial Dance track. The song “Eraser” is another Industrial dance track but more electro influence. The final two tracks are a different change too. The title track has industrial influence for sure, but it’s not as prevalent this time around and the song “Hurt” doesn’t get industrial until the very end. Overall, it might not be the most varied style, but what Trent does was brand new as he fused the genres of industrial, rock, metal, electronic, and alternative.


Now, the ever-lasting influence this album has on modern music. Multiple pop records today have a track or two that go in a dark direction. We have artists today like Billie Eilish and Poppy using their NIN influence in two different ways. Hell, the entire Nu-Metal movement probably wouldn’t exist without this album (alongside RATM). This album made it possible for people like Death Grips to get a place in music circles. Whether if you like this album or the NIN project, you should admit that it changed music.


Well, this album is great. Would I consider it perfect? I wouldn’t say so, but it’s damn near. Trent puts his all on this album and all of the songs are enjoyable in one way or another and I will say that if you haven’t listened to this album, let me assure you that this isn’t for everyone. It’s pretty dark and definitely an acquired taste. Other than that, I love this album, and deserves its classic status.


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