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Nine Inch Nails - The Downward Spiral CD (album) cover

THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL

Nine Inch Nails

 

Crossover Prog

4.04 | 140 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
4 stars 'The Downward Spiral' - Nine Inch Nails (8/10)

Using a hefty dose of anger and disillusionment to his benefit, Trent Reznor has hereby created one of the most unique and disturbing albums I've ever listened to. To anyone that isn't familiar with the term 'industrial' in the musical sense, it will be a bit difficult to explain how this music exactly sounds. Having been under the impression that this strange and unexplored genre had alot to do with using atonal machine sounds as instruments, I had been turned off to even looking into it for a while. However, after having been given the explanation that the realm of 'industrial' was an extension of the psychedelic scene - exploring music by experimenting with new, as yet unheard sounds - I decided to start my journey into this genre with a band I had already heard plenty of good things about. While I had heard a few fleeting moments of NIN beforehand, this would be my first experience with Reznor's music, and suffice to say, I'm very happy that I made the leap of faith.

The first listen to 'The Downward Spiral' as you can imagine, was something of a system shock. I wasn't sure whether it was amazing in it's arrangement and density, or unlistenable in it's atonality and heaviness. As the music first starts going, the listener is bombarded with a collage of controlled noise with a subdued vocal melody singing over top of it. Before long though, some strong melodic hooks are thrown in as a perfect counterbalance to the harsh tones. This style and emphasis on dissonance carries out through most of the album, with a few segments (such as the interlude 'A Warm Place') counting as exceptions.

While the songs themselves are enjoyable, possibly the most enjoyable thing about 'The Downward Spiral' is it's sense of experimental production and sonic density. At any given time, there are multiple things going on, which can make it a pretty challenging listen at first until you start getting a hang of the basics. The sounds and loops used here are also a point of interest, because alot of these sounds cannot be heard in nature as we would think it. While most rock bands focus on the melodies and songwriting and seem to forget about the importance of the actual sound itself, Trent Reznor seems to be meticulous in the way he crafts the sounds of the studio to his liking. What emerges is something that can only be described as sounding 'dystopian.'

'The Downward Spiral' is described as being a concept album about one man's decent into insanity. While there isn't a real flowing narrative here, the general running tone of the album helps to bind it together as a single piece of music. While the middle section of the album seems to be a bit of a dip in quality ('I Do Not Want This' is a good track, but doesn't compare too well to the rest of the fantastic music) the final moments make up for it and more. Strangely enough, Trent Reznor decides to top off the album with a track thats quite unlike the rest of the album that came before it. 'Hurt' is what you could call Nine Inch Nails' version of a ballad; poignant, dense yet filled with emotion and poignance. Being quite a bit more melodic and laid- back than alot of the other music here, it makes for a really heart-wrenching end to an album which I can safely say has changed my view on music.

Conor Fynes | 4/5 |

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