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The Downward Spiral
Format: Audio CD|Change
Price:$8.49+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime

on August 19, 2010
I'm re-writing this review for "The Downward Spiral" because I now think my original review isn't that good, so here's a better one for you folks.

Here we go again, another mainstream release from the 90's that's been overrated beyond belief. Even in my teenage years, when I had this extremely misguided belief that Tool and Rage Against the Machine were the best bands the music world had to offer, I wasn't impressed with Nine Inch Nails. Now that I'm an adult who's listened to a ton of underground metal and industrial bands, my hatred for NIN and Trent Reznor has only escalated much higher than in past years.


Now you may be thinking "What does this have to do with the music?" I'll tell you. Reznor really wants you to believe that he's this dark and edgy musician, but when you compare this criminally overrated "classic" with the prime works of industrial bands like Front Line Assembly, Laibach, and Godflesh, you'll know right off the bat that Reznor is nothing more than a pop musician in the disguise of a troubled, gritty musician. The fact that Reznor is such a blatant egomaniac who thinks he can smash Front Line Assembly in a 1992 interview with Spin magazine doesn't help, either.


The way these songs on this album are executed ultimately proves that Reznor has absolutely zero respect for the industrial music artform, or for music in general. What's ultimately worse is that Reznor is terribly diluted into believing that he's actually being "unique," when he's just taking excrement and serving it up in an aesthetically-pleasing fashion for gullible, angst-laden teenagers who haven't yet learned what real industrial music is.

The general music style for "The Downward Spiral" can be summed up in that Reznor dilutes mechanical industrial keyboards and beats, mixes them with corny "quiet" sections and distorted guitar riffs, and neatly arranges them in a pop song structure as to not lose the potential of giant record sales among mainstream music listener.

Reznor's vocals on this album are terrible. They're either juvenile screaming or whiny singing. I'm not joking, Reznor would be better suited for a run of the mill alternative rock band rather than an industrial band. The vocalwork alone is terrible, but his lyrics futher damage this album.

What ultimately infuriates me is that Reznor has this stupid idea that it's the lyrics that are the main source of providing a certain atmosphere to music rather than the instrumental compositions. Reznor sells the idea that he's a "dark musician" by penning extremely hammy poetry that you'd see in an "outcast" 15 year-old's notebook. Reznor's lyrics are about as edgy as those written by Korn frontman Jonathan Davis. No joke, in the song "Heresy," Reznor screams out "God is dead, and no one cares!!" Seriously, that's such juvenile songwriting. It gets even worse when in the song "I Do Not Want This," Reznor says "Don't tell me how too feel!!" In "Piggy," Reznor whispers out "Nothing can stop me now, because I don't care." Wow, I'm really feeling the genius in his lyrics. This wouldn't be too bad if Reznor was in his mid-late teens when he wrote these lyrics, but he was in his late 20's when he wrote and recorded this album. Reznor is proof that some people grow up while others just get old.

Now the bad lyrics would be forgivable if Reznor did what good musicians do when they realize their lyrics aren't that good, they bury them behind the instrumental work, and use the instruments to be the main source of atmosphere. However, with this album, you don't get that. Reznor, again, has a massive ego to where he thinks his juvenile lyrics are brilliant to where you have to clearly hear ever word that comes out of his useless mouth.


To be fair, there are traces of potential here. "The Becoming" is what comes closest to being a proper industrial song, as this actually has some deviance from the pop melodies that Reznor almost always confines himself to and actually amps up the darkness and aggression provided from the instruments. However, his lame vocals keep this from being a masterful song. "A Warm Place" is a decent instrumental that shows that along with "The Becoming," shows that Reznor has the potential to make decent music when he feels like it, but that's where any sort of praise ends.

The rest of this album is laughable at best, painful at worst. "Mr. Self Destruct" is a ho-hum industrial metal hybrid, and that's really all I can say. "Closer" epitomizes my point that Reznor tries to use "dark" lyrics to make up for the fact that the instrumental work on that song is really tepid, and this doesn't help that he tried to go even further by releasing a hokey music video with a shaved naked girl and a spinning pig's head. "March of the Pigs" is another trying-too-hard "noisy" industrial-metal hybrid with that goofy "quiet" interludes (where he says "How does it make you feel?) in a bad attempt at showing dynamics. "Big Man With a Gun" tries to sound like a proper industrial song mixed with some guitars, but it still falls flat, and it's hurt even more with Reznor's over-the-top whiny alt-rock styled singing. "Piggy" tries to set itself apart from the rest of the album by being primarily drum and bass-driven with whispering vocals that eventually pick up in aggression later in the song, but these just show how untalented Reznor really is. I think I made my point about the songs.


Like many overrated mainstream "classic" albums, the sound quality on this is too clean and sterile for an album that's supposed to be "dark and gritty." It's made to be even more laughable that Reznor thought he was going to make this album even darker by recording it in the house that the Charlie Manson "family" murdered some of their victims. This just shows that Reznor is trying everything to be "dark" besides crafting music that's actually dark.


"The Downward Spiral" is NOT the "dark and edgy" industrial-rock masterpiece that Trent Reznor or mainstream media outlets like MTV want you to think it is. Reznor resorts to every gimmick to make his music seem "dark." It's funny how respectable industrial bands like Front Line Assembly and Godflesh resorted only to making music that's actually dark to push this across.

Skip this counterfeit material and go for the genuine articles in industrial music.

Godflesh: "Streetcleaner" and "Pure/Cold World/Slavestate" (this is one boxed set)
Front Line Assembly: "Caustic Grip," "Tactical Neural Implant," and "The Initial Command"
Die Krupps: "Stahlwerksynfonie" and "I"
Laibach: "Opus Dei" and "Nova Akropola"
Skinny Puppy: "Bites," "Too Dark Park," and "Last Rights"
Spahn Ranch: "Anthology 1992-1994"
Swans: "Filth/Body to Body, Job to Job"

Once you start listening to the above albums, you'll soon be throwing away any Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson albums you might have.
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on December 5, 2017
The CD came in very good condition. Probably nin’s best album.

Don’t listen to it if you have depression or bipolar. Don’t risk your life.
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on October 2, 2017
As the title of this review said, this album started my love of music. Nine Inch Nails is the reason why I'm into the bands I'm into today and I thank Mr. Reznor for getting me through dark times, even if the concept involves characters instead of himself (and even then, he still includes personal lyrics about himself. This was prominent in The Fragile).

I'll be covering the stereo version of the album since I don't own an surround sound system or SACD player.

Anyways, let's get this started

The Backstory:
The Downward Spiral soon began recording after Broken was released, originally slated for a December 1993 release. But Trent being the perfectionist he is, pushed it to a '94 release.

The LP was recorded in the infamous house of Sharon Tate, TR didn't know this until later and felt regret.

Flood and Chris Vrenna were both helping hands in the making of the album, but it was mostly done by Trent himself.

NIN then released the overplayed but still kickass song Closer and as a teaser before the LP was released, March of The Pigs.

Now this album has become the band's biggest selling album for whatever weird reason and it remains an timeless classic released over 23 years ago.

The 2008 Deluxe Edition remaster includes re-taken photos of the original art pieces done by Russel Mills thanks to Rob Sheridan, and a tri-fold digipack, and an slip-on case.

All of the art for this particular album is included in this set, and includes an completely revamped and nicely done booklet full of more art and lyrics, the art being close ups of the original art pieces.

My only problems being an typo in the lyrics of Piggy with an random question mark being in the middle of the text, and no lyrics for the B-Sides except for "Burn". Just personal nitpicks though.

It's also a nice two disc set with the original album remastered and a couple of B-Sides from the TDS era.

Sound Quality:
The treble and bass sounds amazing and more cleaner here, but overall, the sound remains true to the original release.

People might complain that it's too loud, but it's because of there being more clarity then on the original release.

Final Thoughts:
To me, this is the definitve version of TDS on CD and I recommend you pick this baby up ASAP.
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on November 7, 2008
I realize this is supposed to be Nine Inch Nails best album, but that doesn't mean a whole lot to me, to be completely honest.

For the most part, these songs all sound the same, and more annoyingly, is the *noise* factor of the entire thing. I don't mind a little bit of noise as long as there's some diversity and creativity thrown in the mix, but musically Downward Spiral leaves me completely cold.

It's sad that the rock scene had to change to *this* kind of rubbish by the early 90's, but unfortunately that's what happened.

The lyrics are the ONLY thing that saves this overlong, unbearable album. Even then, the ones involving strong sexual themes are extremely irritating and childish, and anyone over the age of 25 should be ashamed of themselves for actually enjoying them. Some of the problems in the world involving kids and teens may be connected to this kind of music. People like to say "Oh no, that's not true. My little Timmy would never do anything bad" but I actually think there's some truth to it.

The lyrics involving drugs, death and sex (you know, the ones ripped straight from old Black Sabbath albums) are the only lyrics worth paying attention to. The thing that separates Nine Inch Nails from Black Sabbath (despite the latter actually being listenable and capable of coming up with enjoyable guitar riffs and songwriting) is the fact that, during the early 70's when Black Sabbath's shocking lyrical matter entered the music scene dealing with drugs and death (and war), Sabbath at least had the common courtesy not to ever go *too* far and turn the lyrics into an obnoxious, disgusting joke.

I can accuse Nine Inch Nails of being generic rip-offs of Black Sabbath and Lou Reed as far as lyrics focusing on drugs is concerned, and the sexual themes were *never* as disgusting as they are on this Nine Inch Nails album. Black Sabbath would find creative ways to cover up the message behind their sexual-themed lyrics, which is in good taste. Lou Reed would offer darker and more twisted tales, all the while maintaining the clever writing.

These lyrics however, lack taste because there's more swear words than any normal person should have to sit through. It doesn't even matter if these swear words are attached to some relatively creative and intelligent lyrics from time to time- when the singer uses a swear word he almost NEVER finds a way to hide it, so it's very obvious what he's trying to say, and the message behind the lyrics. It's disgusting, honestly. There was a time when people didn't have to grow up with cuss words of this extreme nature.

Do you want to hear lyrics about isolation, depression, being trapped, sheltered and just flat-out going insane? Alice Cooper already covered this area exceptionally well back in the 70's. The only difference is that, Alice Cooper found ways to combine these kind of subjects with *interesting musical ideas* and knew how to avoid the kind of inappropriate hardcore rock music that Nine Inch Nails is going for here (luckily because distasteful music wasn't invented yet back then). In other words, Alice Cooper knew how to make shocking lyrics appropriate and worth paying attention to because he knew how to write a vocal melody, and memorable ones at that.

Another band capable of fantastic lyrics would be Van Der Graaf Generator, a band that deals with the same subject matter presented on the Downward Spiral, but done more creatively and tastefully because of Peter Hammill's top-notch lyric writing skills.

The lead singer of Nine Inch Nails focuses on lyrics that are flat out obnoxious and does a VERY poor attempt to hide the actual meaning of the lyrics. He's *always* directly to the point with not much in the way of creativity *just* so kids and teens have something in their music collection they'd know would drive their parents absolutely insane, so you shouldn't take any of the lyrics on the Downward Spiral seriously. Just like Marilyn Manson- these lyrics are a joke and designed to shock, and they *definitely* don't enhance the listening experience because the songwriting itself isn't any good either.

These kind of sexual lyrics are about as strong and disgusting as the subject can be, and I think it would be best to avoid this album and buy something that offers more in the way of vocal melodies, instrumental passages, and just overall talent. Something that can brighten your day.

What people fail to realize is this- your average teenager isn't looking at these lyrics as something original or innovative. Kids today just assume that because the lead singer is using a cuss word, that instantly makes Nine Inch Nails one of the cool bands, and therefore kids are receiving the wrong message which prompts them to go around using the SAME kind of swear words in the SAME dishonest and distasteful way that the lead singer of the band does, and assume it's perfectly normal to do so. All because of bands like Nine Inch Nails- a band that, because of their negative influence to just blurt out whatever kind of swear words they feel like, is one of many bands directly responsible for typically ignorant teenage behavior these days. Nine Inch Nails just happened to be one of the first to appear on the scene- the originators. Original for setting an example that we can't turn back time to change.

Lyrics with so much anger, and hatred, and feeling like you're completely numb, worthless and unimportant *cannot* set a positive example for kids and teens. It all went wrong the moment this album was released. It was like parents lost some control of their children, and you know, it still feels that way now.

These disgusting lyrics just give young people more incentive to basically repeat more or less the same inappropriate lyrics around adults, or whenever they see fit to use them. Why? Because teens think it's cool. Why? Because Nine Inch Nails thinks it's cool. Congratulations Trent- you succeeded in making raising children more difficult for millions of families around the world. A band like this flat out tricks teens into thinking ALL music should have disgusting lyrics like the ones featured on the Downward Spiral in order to be considered acceptable. It's laughable. This band is unacceptable both lyrically and musically. This album is responsible for the thousands of clone artists that came along later, and therefore, responsible for the negative impact it had (and continues to have) on teenagers and the music scene altogether. Melody no longer matters- it's all about trashy lyrics and noisy sounds. So no, this is *not* music done in good taste. No way.

I remember my classmates buying this album back in the day, and praising it to the moon. I hope they have changed their mind and realized this kind of music can't hold up and remain listenable over the years- only listenable when you're sitting in your bedroom and going through teenage problems.

This album was horrible back in 1994, because lyrics of this nature are sickening to me personally, and the music has NOT aged well either. How *could* this album possibly age with dignity? It can't. How can anyone be proud of the fact they are fans of this kind of music? And don't tell me "I'm way too late- I should have complained years ago" because I WAS complaining years ago when this stuff was brand new. I have good reason to complain, in fact.

This album is one (of a few) responsible for destroying the rock scene in the early 90's. No, it didn't expand the rock scene- it turned it into garbage. By the time we reach halfway through the album, you're either experiencing disco-influenced dance beats or screaming that's so loud and intense you just can't handle it. Not much different from Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie or others from the same camp. Oh sure, Nine Inch Nails may have been an influence on those bands (maybe even a MAJOR influence) but it's not like those bands are drastically different from the style Nine Inch Nails is going for on the Downward Spiral. It's still distasteful and inappropriate teenage music that feels childish, unmelodic and just generic copycats of the better bands from years past.

Are adults supposed to like this kind of music? If the answer is no, then you might wanna change your musical tastes NOW while there's still time. This kind of music stops being cool as soon as you graduate high school. Taking this kind of music seriously means it's time to expand your tastes and hear what other kind of music is out there, such as the bands I mention above. Check out a few of those bands and THEN try telling me they're worse than Nine Inch Nails. Laughable to think those bands wrote worse/less intelligent lyrics than what's presented on the Downward Spiral.

I give the album a 2 because once in a great while something tolerable might appear, such as the Nirvana-moody "Piggy" or the vocals on "Closer". The vocals in the beginning of "Hurt" where the singer whispers shocking lyrics reminds me so much of Alice Cooper it's not even funny. Hey, these songs aren't any GOOD of course, just not terrible. Avoid, please.
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on February 15, 2003
A dark, intense, brutal, profane and graphic album, _The Downward Spiral_ is not for those who can't stand sonic overkill, but for those who love intense, explosive and frighteningly loud music - added with some depressing lyrics -- and/or vice versa.

Like the title suggests, this is not a happy album. If you like songs about cruising on the beach, and picking up the hottest girls, then I advise you to leave this page. Featuring such guest appearances from guitarist Adrian Belew (Frank Zappa, King Crimson etc) and Stephen Perkins (Jane's Addiction), this is a wallowing, disturbing, hellish and thought-provoking portrait of (Trent Reznor's?) descent into the most hellish places of the human psyche. Some of the tracks:

"Mr. Self Destruct"--An abrasive, aggressive industrial number. Turn this up loud if you want to abuse your eardrums, or to annoy your friends, parents, neighbors or anyone else.

"Piggy"--One of the slower pieces on the album. The ending features a bunch of seemingly different drum and synthesized parts spliced together to form typical drum patterns, making it sound like a really messed up remix. But, it's really cool.

"March Of The Pigs"--Another explosive industrial number. This time, with an odd rhythm, and some unpredictable shifts into gentle piano and voice modes.

"Closer"--The hit of the album. Seems to be the most 'accessible' and radio-friendly on here. However, it's doubtful that fans of the radio heard the full 6-minute version contained on here.

"Ruiner"--An industrial number with some funky beats. Love the dimly audible vocal production from Trent on here. Also features an ominous and cinematic keyboard/synthesizer sweep during the sexual innuendo-filled chorus.

"The Becoming"--This features a very strange rhythm (which I think is in 13/8.) The main beat is pretty much repeated throughout the song, with the exception of an acoustic break in the middle. Behind all of this are sounds of people screaming, or laughing. Whatever's going on, it's pretty disturbing.

"I Do Not Want This"--A very disturbing piece lyrically, fronted by some techno beats. It finishes with an intense climax, as Trent's vocals are smothered in a computerized wash of synthesizers.

"Big Man With A Gun"--A short, explosive, explicit and somewhat funny number. Crank it loud!

"A Warm Place"--A new age-esque instrumental which is beautiful and moving. The thing that I find disturbing about this track is that instead of ascending two half-steps to close out the track from the main key, it descends two half-steps to finish out the track. Either I'm superstitious, or that just represents something very ironic, disturbing and depressing. Plus, I rarely hear this used in music. Almost genius.

"The Downward Spiral"--Trent must have really been "cooked" when he made this track. This is the most bizarre, disturbing, jarring and bothersome track on the album. Not only are the suicidal lyrics graphic (and voiced in a snaky, spoken word manner by Trent), but the haunting and almost devilish cries/screams in the muffled background just really give me the shakes. As I listen to this track at this very moment, I'm getting the shakes. It's that unsettling. Before all this happens, you get about 2 minutes worth of sound effects, which sound like bitterly cold winds blowing.

"Hurt"--A slow, honest, depressing ballad to close out the album. The ending is one of long, noisy distortion.

As noted, this album is not for the faint of heart, for so many reasons. If you're on the verge of suicide, this is probably not the album to listen to - or conversely, after listening to this (especially the title track), you may just want to stay alive -- fearing that you'll end up in a world like the one featured in this album. If it scares the daylights out of you, it's probably a good thing. I'm probably making no sense, but this is a dark, intense and scary masterpiece. Recommended for the designated listener.
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on January 27, 2002
...Now, I've listened to this album, carefully, and I'm going to explain exactly what I see wrong with it. If I can convince one person to not believe the hype, this review has done its job.

I was expecting a high-quality album, since so many critics seem to adore it. And, yes, I can appreciate that there is some musical creativity and innovation on this album. Unfortunately, it's the same musical creativity over and over. The songs, as a rule, sound like this: Staticky industrial guitars. Keyboard line. Additional samples of machine noises and people crying or screaming. The occasional quiet bit that's meant to be creepy or sinister. Trent Reznor screams, whispers dramatically, and whines. It is all mind-numbingly predictable. "Here is where the heavy guitar will drop out suddenly," I would think, on the first listen. "Here is where the heavy guitars will come back in abruptly. Here is where Trent's whine will escalate into a scream." What do you know? I was right. Personally, I like music to surprise me.

But maybe that's precisely what the critics liked about this album. It's so unrelenting and stubborn that you start to believe it. It becomes "a harrowing hour's journey into the darkness of one man's soul", or whatever, like all the critics said. Like advertising, if something is repeated often enough, people begin to accept it.

Now, listen to the lyrics. You know that particular sort of poetry that kids in high school write in the back of their notebooks when they're having a bad day? Stuff like, "Don't you tell me how I feel/You don't know just how I feel/I stay inside my bed/I have lived so many lives all in my head/Don't tell me that you care/There really isn't anything, is there?" Well, Trent Reznor writes like that. (Yes, that was a direct quote from one of the songs.) You don't have to be a poetic genius to come up with a line like "God is dead and no one cares/If there is a Hell I will see you there." As you'd expect, these and similar sentiments are repeated many times. I like lyrics that are intelligent, that make you think. "I want to break it up/I want to smash it up/I want to f*ck it up" just doesn't qualify. None of these songs make you think, because the message is perfectly obvious in each song. There is nothing to delve deeper into. Trent fools people into thinking his lyrics are deep because they are about dark, difficult subjects. Thinking about suicide doesn't automatically make you deep and interesting.

(Let me just add that I am not offended by the "disgusting" imagery some have mentioned, nor, as a female, do I feel degraded. It's more harmless and laughable than anything, really.)

It's difficult to relate to these lyrics. You'd have to be incredibly self-pitying and thoroughly self-absorbed in order to relate to these songs, in order to take them seriously at all. Certainly, there is a place for dark music in the world, but the best dark music has intelligent things to say. Or it has a sense of humor about itself. Nine Inch Nails doesn't seem to have one.

Maybe I've just listened to too much underground music to appreciate this mainstream (yes--when you can buy it at department stores, it is mainstream) album. Certainly, Nine Inch Nails is a shining star of depth and ingenuity when compared to musical talents like Britney Spears and NSync, but what isn't? I suppose that's part of the reason why so many love this--they've never looked outside what MTV and Rolling Stone present to them. It always annoys me when people say that no one makes good music any more. But if this is the kind of thing they base those statements on, I can't blame them.

Also, when you've heard a number of voices, Trent Reznor's is not exceptional. Sure, he can scream, but Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse can scream better. He can whisper darkly, but the guy from Slint can send chills up your spine. He can carry a tune just fine, but so can most singers, and many can achieve better than this without that ability. Heck, Godspeed You Black Emperor say more about darkness, loss, and despair without even using vocals.

Of course, his average voice wouldn't stand in the way of the music, if the music were good. Unfortunately, it's not. Great lyrics might make up for poor music, if the lyrics were good. Unfortunately, they are not. The bottom line is: a bad record. Some Amazon reviewers have described this as not music, but art. If this sounds like art to you, if it sounds exciting, different, challenging or deep, then I beg you...just look a bit harder. There is music out there that is all those things and more. And Nine Inch Nails is not it.
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on December 8, 2007
This the best of the Nine Inch Nails albums. No other album really compares to this. This is a masterpiece of despair, torment, anger, and brutality. I find myself liking industrial electronic music quite often, and this is one of the finest examples of the genre. I really like the opener Mr. Self Destruct (with an audio snippet of THX 1138 at the beginning of the song), March of the Pigs, and Closer (my favorite song on the album, and a song used over the opening credits of David Fincher's film Seven). Trent has never really captured the intensity of this album on subsequent albums (and taking years inbetween projects takes the edge off sometimes). If you have to pick up one album by Nine Inch Nails, it should be this one.
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on November 11, 2017
Worse CD I have ever heard in my life. Other than loving the song from the movie, Seven, this CD was a waste of my money and I threw it away after trying to give it a chance to see if any of the songs might start to sound better as I listened to them. NOPE they actually made the CD even worse. I guess if you love that kind of music you might love it, but for me, I will never get another CD from Nine Inch Nails.
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on February 1, 2008
Any fan of industrial probably already owns this album so my review is somewhat superfluous but for anyone out there that hasn't already got this here are my two cents worth.

Trent Reznors baby, Nine Inch Nails, hit the zeitgeist of 1994 perfectly with massive use of electronica to form what would go on to be a major foundation of the entire industrial genre. Of course Reznor wasn't a pioneer in this area, prog bands as far back as the 70's had been using electronica and getting the attention of rock afficianados but Reznor deserves credit for creating a more complete package. The attention to detail here is inspiring and the fact that the whole commercial juggernaut had to rest on the shoulders of one guy makes you wonder how he managed it all and came out the other side, I mean Reznor was a pop culture deity circa 1994 - 1995.

As to the music itself it's dense in many parts, a claustrophobic feel that was quite deliberate being very much part of the experience. The effect of grunge can be felt in the plethora of one word song titles and the pessimism of the entire affair may grate with some readers. There is hardly a joyous outburst to be found and certainly no thoughts of inspiring the listener to achieve anything. Except perhaps to buy some more black hair dye.

What will interest the more academically minded is the ground breaking way Reznor was able to create soundscapes via electronic means. Sure, there must of been someone doing it earlier but when something like this album breaks there is usually a watershed moment where it becomes possible to trace those earlier bands. With this release that never really happened and that to me shows that Reznor, while taking what others had done, really took things and upped the ante by several levels all in one hit. My best advice is to listen to a couple of samples of this album to hear (and feel) what I mean here.

As to actual tracks that I'd point out as very indicative of what's going on here - well Piggy is interesting and March of the Pigs also. Big Man With A Gun might also be a good one to sample. The title track for some reason never stood out for me which is strange and it would be remiss of me not to mention the visceral Closer, the song that to an extent made this album with it's vicious self examination and explicit lyrics to create just the right amount of shock value to get the listeners attention.

Ultimately Reznor here constructed the quintessential industrial release. His heavily treated vocals lay over the top of electronically generated guitar sounds that are both jarring and totally in keeping with the vocals. There isn't a heck of a lot of melody here as things machine gun along, battering the listener with waves of distorted, tortured vocals spitting all sorts of despair. Some of the introspection on display is pretty scary and in latter day interviews Reznor has been pretty candid about the sort of headspace he was in at the time.

But in the interests of balance it should also be noted that musical attention to detail, passion and an inspired muse are not all that's on offer. There are also some problems. Firstly the lack of any melodies may make it hard for some listeners to get into it. In fact this is a problem for the industrial genre to start with and it's not helped by the treated vocals which can make for a cold listening experience. Personally it's a plus, but it's easy to see others not really warming to a voice that sounds to have so little humanity present. Further, the muse of our hero is a wandering one, song structures are continued over and over and there seems to have been somewhat of an inability to know when to knock a song on the head as being done. Even the megahit Closer suffers from this - it should be noted that there is/was a single edit of this wandering around - the album version here is blighted with a seeming never ending extra minute or so of mindless electronic riffing which just drags things out and makes the song less special by wearing out it's welcome. Not to mention the fact that much of the nastiness in the lyrics, sorry, perhaps for a younger teenage audience it would be more arresting but I can see stuff this horrific on the news most nights.

Despite the fact he had nothing in common with the grunge genre Reznor can probably thank it for creating an acceptance of mindless, sceptical unhappiness as entertainment and paving the way for his own peculiar brand of angst ridden despair. This is certainly an album that had an effect on much of the 90's in general and easily one of the most important hard `n' heavy albums of that decade. Just how worthy of such adulation the album is when taken in isolation is more debateable.
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on May 23, 2017
I am replacing a few CDs that 'mysteriously disappeared' from my collection over the past several years, which is why I am reviewing an album that is nearly 25 years old. This CD was loaned to me by a much younger co-worker/friend shortly after my 45th birthday ('98). Yes, I'm THAT old. I've been a fervent fan of NIN/TR ever since.

I have very eclectic taste in music. I like everything from Mozart to Pink Floyd; from John Coltrane to Tool; from Led Zeppelin to Sonic Youth. The only real requirement I have for music is talent. And, NIN/TR has much more than most.

So, since this was my introduction to NIN, this album has a special place in my heart. It isn't my favorite NIN album (The Fragile, of course) but I really, really, really like all of them. And, at the time I first heard this work of art I was in my own 'downward spiral.' So it resonated with me on a gut-level.

This album starts hard and doesn't let up. Every song is powerful (and sometimes disturbing) on some level. It's probably not an album to listen to early in the morning to get yourself 'pumped up' for the day. It's probably not a party album either, unless you have some very special friends.

But, this is a GREAT album, make no mistake. Most of you already know that - but if you haven't heard it for some reason, stream a few songs from somewhere and listen. There's real genius at work here.
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