(8/17/2021) Nine Inch Nails - The Downward Spiral

Released March 8, 1994


  1. Mr. Self Destruct
  2. Piggy
  3. Heresy
  4. March of the Pigs
  5. Closer
  6. Ruiner
  7. The Becoming
  8. I Do Not Want This
  9. Big Man with a Gun
  10. A Warm Place
  11. Eraser
  12. Reptile
  13. The Downward Spiral
  14. Hurt

Favorite track: March of the Pigs

Honestly, I really thought I was gonna dig this album given my history with enjoying industrial-type music, but I just couldn't really get into this one. My only previous experience with Nine Inch Nails is through the songs Closer and Only (Dirty), both of which are singles. Everything else I've heard about them from comes from the vague good things I would hear through the grapevine as well as my parents' own opinions (which were also positive). It's safe to say I wasn't really sure what I was getting myself into and essentially had no expectations.

I know that harsh noises are a big part of the... well... INDUSTRIAL genre, but I don't think their particular brand of this music appeals to me very much. It's honestly too loud and difficult to parse what I'm even hearing. When the super loud percussion comes in while Trent is screaming with that filter over his voice (coupled with whatever other instrumentation is being layered over it), it just sounds like a bunch of garbled noise. Turning it up doesn't help because then it just hurts my ears, and turning it down just makes it even harder to tell what's going on, and I'm a guy who usually listens to music at ear-splitting volumes. Other than the voice filter bugging me, I also feel like Trent's voice is just mixed too far into the background, but that could very well be the fault of my headphones. I didn't bother listening to it through a speaker or anything else to avoid bothering anyone within my immediate vicinity.

HOWEVER, I will say I do enjoy the juxtaposition of the loud chaos with the quieter little piano segments by the end of songs like Piggy and Closer. Speaking of Closer, I personally feel like that's the most "listenable" track on the album for anyone who doesn't particularly enjoy this group's style or just doesn't like music that feels like it's assaulting you. You'd expect that to be my favorite song on the album considering how much I enjoyed it beforehand, but the one exception to my complains is March of the Pigs. It's a weird track with the exact kind of varying dynamics I pointed out, with lyrics that I just generally really dig also adding to that feel ("Take the skin and peel it back" / "Now doesn't that make you feel better?")

Halfway through the album I had already turned the volume down a bit and zoned out and only tuned back in when I heard Big Man with a Gun. I enjoyed the music, but not the lyrics. I'm aware that's precisely the point of the song, and have heard other songs with similar themes, but I just didn't dig the lines on this one. Not liking the lyrics on this album was a consistent issue for me, although I do make exceptions for Mr. Self Destruct and Closer. This feels like an album I would have enjoyed in high school, a time when I was really going through some stuff and needed songs that felt like a masochistic punch in the gut. Nowadays the lyrics disturb me, which, again, is the whole point, but I still want to give credit where credit's due. Overall, it's not really for me, but I'll still keep listening to their singles.

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