Nine Inch Nails - The Downward Spiral (Cover Artwork)

Nine Inch Nails

The Downward Spiral (1995)


After five years of studio inactivity, it was time for Trent Reznor and co. to deliver the second Nine Inch Nails full-length, 1995's The Downward Spiral, which continues to influence and inspire a large number of other industrial, punk and rock musicians throughout its career. This was actually Trent's first true Nine Inch Nails album since the 1989 now-legendary debut Pretty Hate Machine, as 1992's Broken was an EP.

The album begins with "Mr. Self Destruct," an exercise in, well, self-destruction, as Trent wails off a list of vices for which the society he despises secretly live by, shaming ourselves on the altar of sex, drugs, gratuitous violence in entertainment, and religion. Ending with Adrian Belew's psychedelic guitar manipulations, it is the perfect way to start the album and lays the blueprint for the subject matter to come: a myriad of sex, drugs, violence and the contemplation of suicide which will leave the listener drained and devoid of hope once the album finishes.

Taking an unexpected turn, the music mellows into the bassy undertones of "Piggy," bringing the image of despair full circle with the eerily whispered lyric "nothing can stop me now, 'cause I don't care anymore..." After a guitar solo full of fuzz distortion cranks across the bridge of the song and brings the almost human sounding drum machines bashing into "Piggy"'s closure, "Heresy" begins, Trent's screams of rage at God and the powers that be over the AIDS virus dominating the track, making it one of the most brutal tracks presented here. That's alongside "March of the Pigs," its followup song and a continuation of the pig theme which seems to wholeheartedly encompass the artist's view of society.

Other noteworthy tracks are "Closer," the single which only proves you have been living under a rock if you can't sing along with its sexually explicit and non-radio-friendly chorus and "The Becoming," an industrial beast of a song featuring Reznor lamenting over the pathetic inhuman machine he has become, using samples of human screams instead of music as a backing track. It is one of the album's most disturbing moments and will infect your mind if listened to closely (or frequently) enough. And of course there is "Hurt," one of the most powerful songs of the `90s generation, an anthem which epitomizes regret and despair in the most dire of ways. Not to be missed is "A Warm Place," a hauntingly beautiful piano piece spreading its warmth across a few brief minutes of the middle of the record before plunging the listener back into insanity.

To anyone here who doesn't own The Downward Spiral, you must check it out, as well as Pretty Hate Machine; both are classics and also my favorite Nine Inch Nails albums. "Piggy," "March of the Pigs," "Closer" and the closing track "Hurt" are the best tracks on this album.