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

THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL

Nine Inch Nails

 

Crossover Prog

4.04 | 143 ratings

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TCat
5 stars I have a hard time understanding why people seem to have a hard time accepting this album as a essential masterpiece of progressive rock. I can give you a lot of reasons why this is progressive and these reasons follow in the next paragraph.

It was inspired by the works of David Bowie (Low) and Pink Floyd (The Wall). It is a concept album in every sense of the word about a man on a downward spiral of destruction from the beginning to an attempt at suicide. Sure that's a heavy subject but then so was The Wall. It is musical progression in that Trent changed his focus from the synth-pop of "Pretty Hate Machine" to hard hitting guitar centered music ranging from heavy metal to prog-industrial (King Crimson style anyone?) to short bits of ambience. It has some very tricky meters through various part of the album (29/8 time signature in "March of the Pigs' for example). The heavy guitar sound was influenced by Adrian Belew (Frank Zappa, King Crimson) who felt that Trent's ideas at the time was a good outlet for Belew's guitar experimentation, in fact, Belew not only helped on two tracks ("Mr. Self Destruct" and "The Becoming") but also convinced Reznor that the guitar was a very dynamic instrument and helped steer him away from the syth-heavy sound that he was using. This album is also a study in dynamics and abruptness, there is very little use of crescendos and decrescendos, but dynamic changes are very abrupt and fit this music and the concept perfectly. Most of the songs here do not use conventional song patterns such as Verse/Chorus/Repeat. The album itself worked to inspire a host of future artists and is still essential and evident to this day. The structure of the music is based on experimental and psychedelic music and the influence of both types of music are used effectively throughout. Odd chord changes and chord manipulations (Hurt) abound. Recurring themes are scattered among the tracks tying the concept together. Inventive music and experimental sounds are all over this album (The Downward Spiral, Mr. Self Destruct, etc.) I don't know what else people need to prove that this is progressive music.

Now, I agree that it doesn't fit to everyone's taste. It is a study in extremes, so even though you get some beautifully quiet passages, most of the album is loud and noisy. It is industrial, yes, but progressive elements are infused into the music all throughout the album. If you don't like the over the top loudness and feelings of loss of control, then this is not for you. It is dark, but if it wasn't, it wouldn't be very true to it's concept. So that's just how it is. I can't blame people for not wanting to listen to it because of the subject matter, but that doesn't bother me, so I recognize this for the masterpiece that it is. It may not be the most progressive music out there, but it's definitely more progressive than any of the music that was popular (or is popular now) and anything that becomes accessible to the masses that promotes progressive music is a great thing. This is a type of album that I wouldn't be surprised if Mike Patton or Toby Driver would put out, of course with their own styles, but their styles aren't really that far removed from this. This is not an overrated album. It is the celebrated masterpiece that it deserves to be, but those that should be it's proponents are it's biggest deniers. As for myself, I can't recognize this for anything less than what it is. 5 stars.

TCat | 5/5 |

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