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Nine Inch Nails - Broken CD (album) cover


Nine Inch Nails

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Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
2 stars Three years after his excellent first Nine Inch Nails album, Trent Reznor apparently didn't have enough material for another full album, so he released this EP. The original release (the one I own), had the last two tracks, cover songs by Adam Ant and Pigface (a previous band that Reznor was in), on a separate mini disk. Apparently, after discovering that some record store operators (not me) had been removing the mini disk and selling it separately, Reznor rereleased the EP with all of the songs on one disk.

I enjoyed Pretty Hate Machine immensely. I found Reznor's songwriting on that album to be fresh and emotional. Here, not so much. Although he uses many of the same sounds and techniques as on his first album, somehow here it sounds forced and contrived. Perhaps it is because on this disk, you can barely understand what he is singing on each song. At least the beat and sounds are compelling on a primal level. That will have to suffice.

Report this review (#295993)
Posted Tuesday, August 24, 2010 | Review Permalink
Post/Math Rock Team
3 stars According to PA, this has Marilyn Manson on one song. I didn't know he worked with Reznor this early; the liner notes in my copy don't mention him at all. Anyway, this was the follow up to Pretty Hate Machine from 1989 and the first NIN I ever bought. I had heard PHM previously though. Before I even begin to talk about the music itself, I wanted to mention two things. First, at least the original CD versions of this had a cool foldout to them; you had to open three layers before you got to the CD itself. Still the coolest design for a CD I have ever seen. Second, this originally had 99 songs on it. Songs 7-97 just being one second of nothing each.

There was a long break between releases because Reznor was having troubles with his former label TVT Records. For Broken, NIN were now on Interscope. In between the sound became more aggressive, metallic and industrial than PHM. "Pinion" is just a short guitar noise that gets repeated and becomes louder and louder with some other noises added later on. It starts off so quiet you think there is something wrong with your speakers/headphones the first time you listen to this. I lent a friend my copy once. He told me that when he played it, he couldn't hear anything at first, so he cranked the volume up. Then when the next song "Wish" started, it was so loud he literally fell off his chair. With today's 'loudness wars' a whole generation is missing out on stuff like this.

The first time I ever heard the term "fist f*ck" was on "Wish". The verse and chorus parts are very different but compliment each other. I like the weird sounding synth in the middle. The guitar near the end is good too. "Last" has some great guitar. Always liked the line "my lips may promise but my heart is a whore". The song alternates between slower verses and faster choruses. "Help Me I Am In Hell" is a nice instrumental with echoed guitar effects.

"Happiness In Slavery" had a bizarre video for it that I think was banned on most music channels. The bass line and the sound of the bass are both awesome. I love the part in the middle with the overdubbed synth-generated machine noises. I like the looped, fast drumming that starts "Gave Up". Generally a fast and heavy song. Apparently there is some Mellotron in this song. Cool synth solo around a minute and a half.

The last two tracks are not listed on the original versions of this EP. Track 98 is a cover of the Adam & The Ants song "Physical". Track 99 is a re-recording of the song "Suck" by the Ministry side project Pigface which included Reznor. I still like Broken a lot. There was a re- mix album called Fixed that came out shortly after. All I remember about it was some of it was noisy as hell. You can barely recognize most of the songs. About as avant as NIN ever got. For this I give 3 stars.

Report this review (#354886)
Posted Thursday, December 16, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Broken is perhaps my favourite early Nine Inch Nails release; a short and to the point EP built around expressing the apocalyptic anger Trent Reznor was feeling at the time towards his former record company (and the world in general). Whilst the emotional stance of other NIN works tended towards the mopey and self-pitying - and, at points, didn't really seem sincere - Broken takes the vocabulary of industrial metal and uses it to create intense, impassioned invective which gets my blood racing every time I listen to it. Taking the NIN project firmly into the arena of metal and away from its synthesiser-flooded beginnings, Broken is a real treat.
Report this review (#608309)
Posted Thursday, January 12, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars After instigating some serious ripples in the stagnant waters of the rock music scene late in 1989 with his stunning "Pretty Hate Machine" album, Trent Reznor realized that he now had to deal with the peripherals that came with wave-making. Some were positive, some not so much. Putting together an impressive touring Nine Inch Nails ensemble and shocking audiences the world over with their raucous, in-your-face stage presence, thereby frightening parents into banning them from their teens' Walkmans (being tagged as taboo = a marketing mother lode), were part of the rich harvest gleaned from that debut's success. The bad stuff arose from the ever-present business side of the equation that only cared about one thing, the "God Money" that Trent had so vehemently railed against in "Head like a Hole." The band's label, TVT, started pressuring Reznor to quickly produce a follow up CD in order to seize the fleeting moment. When he didn't respond as instructed, their battery of lawyers started waving legal papers in his mug, threatening to freeze his artistic assets. As one would expect, things got nasty in a hurry, forcing Trent to record in secret until Interscope Records intervened, bought out his contract (without his approval, I might add) and gave him free reign to come out of hiding and create at will. In September of '92 Nine Inch Nails finally resurfaced with "Broken" and the fans responded enthusiastically.

Not known as being a particularly tolerant or longsuffering fellow, Reznor's musical and lyrical tone reflected his reinforced disdain for capitalistic greed merchants and the conceited bullying tactics they employed in order to keep their indentured servants in line. While the songs on the former disc certainly didn't display any signs of restraint when it came to ranting against corporate tyranny and the horrendous things that people do to each other in the name of love, the tunes on "Broken" zeroed in on being Trent's vehicle to vent his outrage over the injustices of "the system" and showcased the paranoid virus its cruel manipulations had infected him with. I also detect the influence of his realization that the live crowds he'd performed for demanded nothing less than being pulverized into submission by his music and that, as far as they were concerned, overkill was impossible for him to achieve. For these reasons the tracks are based more heavily on massive, metallic guitar assaults than they were on PHM, where the role synthesizers played in the overall ambience was more noticeable. It's noisy as hell, too.

"Pinion" is a very short intro to the album that brings to mind an ominous storm gathering and advancing from the far horizon. When "Wish" hits with its intense oom-pah beat grinding beneath a brash, distorted wall of guitars that stands in contrast to Reznor's relatively calmer but still anger-filled verses there's no mistaking who you're listening to. He spits out "Don't think you're having all the fun/you know me I hate everyone/wish there was something real/wish there was something true/wish there was something real/in this world full of you/I want to but I can't turn back/but I want to," and one gets a glimpse of the vile disease of distrust that's festering in his psyche. This song and the whole EP in general is more punkish than exploratory in attitude. "Last" is better. Its strong-as-an-ox metal approach is more accessible in its clarity and purpose. The tune utilizes different atmospheres to provide needed dynamics but it's subtle as a steel mill as Trent rails against the machine that's draining him bit by bit. "Still feel it all slipping away/but it doesn't matter anymore/everybody's still chipping away/but it doesn't matter anymore/look through these blackened eyes/you'll see ten thousand lies/my lips may promise but my heart is a whore," he screams. An instrumental, "Help Me I am in Hell," follows, consisting mainly of a strummed electric guitar that holds steady as suffocating synth noises build to a crescendo and then subside around it.

On the sarcastic "Happiness in Slavery" a harsh, pounding beat anchors this riff-driven tune in which Reznor snarls and slobbers, setting loose his pent up ire and disillusionment via lines like "I don't know what I am/I don't know where I've been/human junk just words and so much skin/stick my hands through the cage of this endless routine/just some flesh caught in this big broken machine." The electronically-generated percussion breakdown is suspenseful but it only offers a brief respite from Trent's exasperating primal yelps, strained whispers and atonal grunts. The ferocious "Gave Up" is next. A frantic, incredibly fast drum pattern props up Reznor's altered vocal at the onset and then a stupendously loud, assaulting chorus takes charge, tempered only by slightly less-boisterous verses and presenting little in the way of finesse. "After everything I've done/I hate myself for what I've become/I tried/I gave up/throw it away" he cries. I understand that this is art but at this point one starts to fear for his sanity. The EP ends with two covers. The first is Adam Ant's "Physical (You're So)" wherein a huge, throbbing pulse stalks below this Neanderthal love song that makes plain its core intent. "I want the touch of your charms/the heat of your breath/I wanna say all those things/that would be better unsaid," Reznor croons in his inimitable way. A version of Pigface's "Suck" is the curtain-closer. Its funk foundation in the verses gives way to sledgehammer slams that propel the battalion of guitars-fueled choruses. It drops into a turbo hum bridge for about a minute, then the army of axes crash back in as Trent bellows "A thousand lips/a thousand tongues/a thousand throats/a thousand lungs/a thousand ways to make it true/I want to do terrible things to you." (His new record company did well to heed this thinly-veiled threat and left him alone.) The track exits in a revival of the number's initial funky strut.

I regard "Broken" as a necessary stepping stone in his career that allowed Reznor to blow off some destructive steam that could've lessened the impact that "The Downward Spiral" would have a year and a half later. That album possessed an artistic identity and verve that might have been missing had Trent carried the blinding rage he exorcised on this disc into that project. Yet, as brittle and raw as "Broken" is, it still resonated with a large portion of the public that wanted something less retro and more challenging than what the grunge movement was presenting. The CD rose to #7 on the chart, went platinum in no time and garnered two Grammy awards so its appeal wasn't limited to NIN fans only. And, because the gritty, unnerving videos that accompanied several of these songs were designated as unfit for MTV, folks had to turn to the web to view them, thus loosening the unholy grip that mind-numbing network had on the populace and helping to finally bring the word progressive back into 20th century music's vocabulary. So there's a lot to appreciate about "Broken" but, as for me, I have to be in a very chapped and indignant mood to swim in its dangerous waters. Fortunately, that's not very often these days but it's good to know it's there if I need it.

Report this review (#624789)
Posted Wednesday, February 1, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars Good thing they put this one in digipak instead of a jewel case?

The second NIN offering, broken shows Reznor and friends moving away from the more alternative sound of Pretty Hate Machine into more interesting territory. Still dark and angry, but also even heavier. Also interesting to know is that this album is very much a computer (Macintosh) made project using software called Digidesign's TurboSynth. I really like that backward tracking sounding like guitar effect he creates on Happiness In Slavery. "Don't open your eyes you won't like what you see". There's even a distorted Mellotron used on the album, but I'm not sure where it's used.

This really is a very loud album even at low volumes but has a lot of interesting details in the mix if you crank it up. Trent paid a lot of attention to the audio details. It's almost too short particularly if you cut out the two cover tracks at the end. But hey, a better album would follow.

Report this review (#637963)
Posted Wednesday, February 22, 2012 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Broken" is an EP release by US industrial rock/metal act Nine Inch Nails. The EP was released through Nothing/TVT Records in September 1992. Considering the grand commercial success of the debut album "Pretty Hate Machine (1989)", it's thought provoking that it took Trent Reznor 3 years before he was ready to release "Broken". There were various reasons for the long recording break though. First of all Nine Inch Nails had spend time touring in support of the debut album, but the most significant reason was probably that Trent Reznor had a feud with TVT Records, who according to him, pressured him into writing an album in a similar style to the debut, which he refused. Trent Reznor vision to inject his industrial rock with a shot of metal didn't exactly please TVT Records. After a long legal battle the two parties reached a deal though and Trent Reznor was released from his record deal with TVT Records, but only after the release of "Broken". He would subsequently sign a deal with Interscope Records.

The music on the 99 track EP is industrial rock/metal. out of the 99 tracks only 8 are "real" songs while the remaining tracks are 0:01 minute tracks of silence. It's a formula that wasn't uncommon in the early- to mid nineties, where artists sought to explore the CD medium to it's full. While it may have been something new and exciting in 1992 that a band would chose to do such a thing, today it's just plain annoying that we get 6 tracks and then a bunch of silent tracks before the last 2 tracks kick in. With that said the quality of the "real" tracks on the album is high throughout. Angsty/angry industrial rock/metal packed in a powerful and impressive sound production, featuring layers of sounds, samples, vocals and instruments. Most tracks are quite catchy and I can see why a track like "Wish" ended up winning the 1993 Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance. In 1992 this sounded fresh, energetic and inspired but that's actually also the case today. "Broken" doesn't sound dated at all and that's a bit surprising but also a testimony to the high quality of the sound production! A 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is warranted.

Report this review (#707992)
Posted Wednesday, April 4, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars This release gets 4 out of 5 stars as possibly Trent Reznor's best. It's unusual to say that about half an hour's worth of music. However, its conciseness is its strongest selling point. NIN's next effort, "The Downward Spiral", is brilliant. However, over an hour's worth of anger and misery can be draining. "Broken" is definitely more aggressive than "Pretty Hate Machine". In my mind, that's a very good thing.

At roughly 30 minutes, "Broken" succeeds emotionally IMO. Favorite tracks are "Wish", "Help Me I Am In Hell', and "Happiness in Slavery". However, everything here is worth listening to. I've always thought that it was strange/funny that Trent was covering an Adam Ant song, of all things. However, injecting "Physical" with his own angst in a typical NIN arrangement works. I think the song points to what makes NIN's work successful; it's so musical. For all the rage in Trent's music, he can write strong melodies and lyrics. That's why "Broken" is NIN at their almost best, if not best.

Report this review (#939164)
Posted Thursday, April 4, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is extreme music. This is what Trent Reznor wanted to make after the huge success of Pretty Hate Machine, but the record company wanted a new record that was basically a copy of PHM. Reznor switched labels after some litigation and got what he wanted, thanks to Jimmy Iovine introducing him to Intrerscope. At first, Reznor didn't like Interscope either and was suspicious of them wanting the same thing as the previous record company, but he was given the freedom he wanted and recorded this EP of noise and heavy industrial rock.

This recording works well and one of the main reasons is because of it's EP length. It contains a short instrumental that builds the tension, two hard and heavy tracks, followed by another tension building short instrumental and then two more rip ass songs. After that, you get two excellent covers, in my opinion, the best part of the album. "Physical" is an Adam Ant cover with all the pop elements ripped away by an amazing wall of sound. "Suck" is a Pigface cover which is a band featuring Ministry and Reznor. This time the industrial is very prominent again, but the 2 covers are maybe just a tiny bit less noisy....but then again....maybe not. Explosive, emotional, angry and exciting. Progressive because of the broken barriers apparent in the music and production more than the actual song formation, but progressive nevertheless. There would be better albums to come, but this one is still and excellent addition to any prog rock collection.

Report this review (#1300326)
Posted Monday, November 3, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars In the late 80's, Trent Reznor originally envisioned a band that made subtle social commentary which was conveyed via. industrial rock. Thus, Pretty Hate Machine was released in 1989 to average popularity. However, Reznor himself believed that he had overdone it, and implied too much shameless self pity. Feeling that his point was ruined from the release, he planned another release and gave the public the EP Broken a few years later.

Trent, my god, good job with this one. Taking a metal edge instead of the indulgent mainstream industrial rock that the antecedent release was full of, this EP evolves not only the Industrial metal scene but also the band's structure. If I were to say, my favorite industrial metal band has always been Stabbing Westward. However, after finding and buying this little gem at a thrift store, I decided that Nine Inch Nails had thoroughly earned my respect as a whole.

The album ranges from flat out slamming metal to more complex, albeit stranger songs. The future Nine Inch Nails sound is still there, but if you are interested in such a raw version of this band then this would be definitely something for you. 'Wish' is a simple little tune, undoubtedly the most recognized from it, which follows a quick tempo as well as sudden bursts of angry static-style riffing. 'Last' is an absolute slammer, with giant hunky metallic riffs making for a pure ball of anger hitting you over and over. Simply excellent, and perhaps my personal favorite from the album. 'Help Me I'm In Hell' is an interesting bridge to 'Happiness in Slavery', another scream-filled song which Reznor pours his soul into. 'Gave Up' is more of an fast, alternative hard rock song with fewer industrial elements than the others. However, Reznor's voice has been modified which sounds like he's speaking into a fan. However, it does add some more feeling to the song.

Now, 'Gave Up' is perhaps where we would end, for the rest of the EP is simple blank space. But no, hidden at the end are two covers of two different bands. The first being 'Physical (You're So)', a cover of the post-punk band Adam and the Ants, is actually quite enjoyable. The band souped up the original to add more metal as well as more electronic influences and sounds. The second is 'Suck', a cover of the industrial rock band Pigface. It isn't as enjoyable as the former but it's still okay. I would call it more undoubtedly rock-y than metallic. Nice casual listen, though.

So, in the end, NiN's Wish is a fantastic EP. I would go so far as to say that this little gem is what undoubtedly got the band rolling. I suggest if you are any particular metal fan or even a fan of the band, get it, it'll be worth it.

(Originally Written for the Metal Music Archives on 2015-02-01)

Report this review (#1359285)
Posted Sunday, February 1, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars At the time of Nine Inch Nails' now-classic EP Broken, band leader Trent Reznor was in the midst of a protracted legal battle with his record company, who demanded that the follow-up recording be in a similar style to his debut, Pretty Hate Machine. This was the first of many difficulties Reznor faced with record companies that would ultimately lead to his going independent for several years, and this record could hardly have sounded more different from its predecessor. It's a scathing blast of white-hot rage full of screams and dissonance, and it's just plain heavier than anything else Reznor has released before or since (except maybe the remixes of this album found on Fixed).

In terms of quality, this record represents Reznor's first unqualified classic. "Wish" deservedly won a Grammy Award (Reznor joked that he wanted his gravestone to read "Said 'fist f#%k', won a Grammy"), and the rest of the album lives up to the quality of this track. The only let-up in intensity until the bonus tracks is the brief instrumental "Help Me I Am in Hell", which maintains a similar mood as the rest of the EP but turns the volume down. It also presages the direction Reznor would take on the following albums.

The two songs at the end are somewhat more light-hearted than the rest of the EP, especially the Adam and the Ants cover "Physical (You're So)". Reznor makes this song and the Pigface cover "Suck" his own, and they help to make the EP more than an unrelenting blast of rage. But as far as that particular emotion goes, Reznor has never topped it.

Report this review (#1434355)
Posted Friday, July 3, 2015 | Review Permalink
3 stars Nine Inch Nails was a band I got into in the mid-nineties, though I no longer recall how it was that I heard of them or decided to buy their albums. My first purchase was "Further Down the Spiral", a collection of remixes of songs from "The Downward Spiral", which was my second purchase. I had "March of the Pigs", yet another remix album, but I was so disappointed with it that I eventually sold it.

"Broken" was my final NIN purchase. It sounded very different from what I had heard on "The Downward Spiral" and "Further Down the Spiral" but it was still obviously Nine Inch Nails. Around that time, there was a video for "Pinion" that I saw on Much Music (Canada's music station). In the video, the camera followed a series of pipes running across the ceiling and down walls, through floors, in some building and the final scene brought us to a person tied up in black leather with the pipe terminating in his mouth and water spewing from his mouth out the sides. It's just a short track and an instrumental at that. The volume slowly rises with a creepy distorted guitar chord sequence that repeats as effects come in. Then it abruptly ends as "Wish" begins with its quick percussion and heavy guitar. "Last" was and still is my favourite song on this album. The guitar riffs sound really like Black Sabbath to me, and Trent Reznor delivers his trademark paranoid/maniac style of vocals.

I hadn't listened to the album for a long time but a few weeks ago I watched the Lock Horns (on YouTube) episode about early industrial metal albums and this one was mentioned, so I dug it out and put the disc into iTunes and on my phone. It's better than I remembered. Now I find most of the album captures my attention. The production is clear, warm, and loud but not in the red. There is an excellent balance between heavy guitar rock band and electronic band. Some songs feature some great riffs that caught my ear while I was walking and listening, tracks like "Happiness is Slavery" and "Suck". There's enough variety on this album to keep it interesting, though "Help Me I Am In Hell" is another short instrumental that is simple and a little repetitive.

One comment to make here is about the two hidden tracks, "Physical (You're So)" and "Suck". A lot of hidden track albums will put the hidden track on as part of the final track with an intervening empty gap that can be anywhere from a couple of minutes to over ten minutes. I really despise those long pointless gaps of blankety- blank-blankness. However, on "Broken" all the empty space is filled with something like 91 1-second-long blank tracks. Why is this good? Because when putting the CD into an iTunes library, you can unselect all the blank tracks and save only the tracks with music. My iTunes folder now has only 8 music files for this album instead of eight plus 91-something blank tracks. Good thinking, guys! A huge blank gap in between two tracks that make up only one track on the CD is really the pits!

All in all, a very good bit of industrial metal. It's not every track that's a killer but there's a lot of great stuff here! On Lock Horns, by the way, the album made the list of ten essential early industrial metal albums.

Report this review (#1787579)
Posted Wednesday, September 27, 2017 | Review Permalink

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