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Category:    Home > Reviews > Rock > Industrial > Nine Inch Nails - The Downward Spiral (CD)

Nine Inch Nails: The Downward Spiral  (Compact Disc version)


Sound: B+     Music:  A



The slow but abrupt sounds of gunshots start out the epic album known as The Downward Spiral.  Appropriately, the album ends with an eerie echo sounding the end of one of the band’s most classic songs “Hurt”.  What was the beginning of a revolution started with this album.  Upon hearing the band’s album “Broken”, it was obvious that the band’s leader, Trent Reznor, was taking the overall “sound” of the band into a new direction - edgier, more industrial, and more apparently gothic direction than was able to be seen in Pretty Hate Machine.  This album is exactly that – an album – a list of fourteen songs that weave a thick tale about sex, lies, religion, reptiles, and broken hearts.  Best when listened to from start to finish.


The thing about Nine Inch Nails is that they have such an original sound that it’s impossible to outmatch them.  Reznor is obviously a highly influential industrial metal musician not in turn of both his powerful lyrics and absorbing beats and tones.  In short, if you’re having a horrible day and it’s powdering down the rain outside, it’s best to throw in this album.  Your aggression will turn into determination.  And that little demon inside of you hopefully will crawl away and get lost somewhere further down the spiral.


Two of band’s most listened to songs are on this album – “Hurt” and “Closer” – which serve almost as markers for the points where the lyrics carve an image of a powerful man (Closer) and a much weaker man (Hurt).  Hey, Piggy” is a great little tune that dances an image in my head an almost Reservoir Dogs-esque vision of a dark man with a knife, some scotch tape, and a tied up cop in a corner somewhere chanting the lyrics “Nothing Can Stop Me Now.”  I Do Not Want This”, “Big Man With a Gun”, “Hersy”, “Ruiner”, and “The Becoming” and relentlessly loud and beautiful tracks address the band’s issues with the useless people and things that live under the armpit of society.


What I really enjoy about this album and the body of Trent Reznor’s work is his use of beautiful instrumentals that serve as preludes to the next song.  My favorite on this album is Eraser, a deep and creepy melody and obviously The Downward Spiral, which I think is one of the most powerful tracks I’ve ever heard.  And “A Warm Place” is legend to be from the perspective of a baby inside her mother’s womb.  The music is honest, graphic about mortality and


The PCM 2.0 16Bit/44.1kHz Stereo is very good for the CD format and those who settle for that format will not be disappointed.  There are multiple releases of this album however, including a Deluxe Edition Super Audio CD set that has a hybrid audio track layer feature, including these CD tracks.  The 5.1 DSD (Direct Stream Digital) and even 2.0 Stereo DSD tracks from the Deluxe Edition are even more impressive than the CD tracks.  It also has an extra disc with remixes, B-Sides, and non-album tracks.  There is also a dual disc available that has the album remixed in 5.1 Surround Sound in the DVD-Audio’s MLP (Meridian Lossless Packing) format.  This is also better than the CD mix, though not quite as smooth as the DSD on the SACD set.  The 5.1 on the SACD is one of the best mixes in the market.


The DVD-Video side of the Dual Disc includes the Music Videos for “Closer”, “Hurt” and “March Of The Pigs”, with “Closer” offered in 5.1 as well as the 2.0 Stereo of the other two clips.  There is also a complete discography and image gallery, but not much more.  Closer” is also on The Films Of Mark Romanek DVD reviewed elsewhere on this site, which we strongly recommend.


I love Nine Inch Nails – whether I’m walking to work, visualizing for a screenplay, or just to throw on when everything else seems boring.  This album I highly suggest to anyone who is a fan of industrial or metal music and has a good eye for the bizarre and unnatural.  The Downward Spiral is a classic that just gets better with age.



-   Jamie Lockhart


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