Monday, April 30, 2012
Nine Inch Nails - The Downward Spiral
Released - 1994
Story by Larry Ragone, singer/guitarist for Psychic Teens.
Editor's note: Since this is an album on a major label, there is no download link available.
It was the Summer of 1994 when I, like many others, discovered Nine Inch Nails and The Downward Spiral. After a sloppy, physical, and mud-covered set at Woodstock ’94, and a much publicized battle with Tipper Gore and the P.M.R.C. (remember them?). NIN had become a much buzzed about popular music act by the time I was able to acquire the compact disc from BMG Music Club.
At twelve years old, I knew soon after tearing the shrinkwrap and removing the much-dreaded Parental Advisory sticker that I had my hands on something special. Unlike any other disc I owned (I had maybe a dozen) there seemed to be a very distinct visual aspect to the packaging and layout. A slimline CD case with little or no copy housed the disc – which itself – was a downward spiral. HALO EIGHT was featured twice in the layout thus planting the seeds of a future record collector, begging me to collect every HALO from then on out.
Upon further inspection of the oversized booklet inside the slipcase, I knew that I had something that would likely be considered pretty fucked up. Jagged sentence fragments in lowercase blue type adorned white pages. The letter “i” prominent throughout led me to believe that this was a personal record with a single narrator: a trait of early Nine Inch Nails that I still admire to this day.
Upon the first spin of the disc, I was immediately bludgeoned with confrontational vocal delivery, wall -of-noise guitars and keyboards, and pulsating, unrelenting percussion. There was no doubt to me that I was in some serious heavy metal territory – my genre of choice. However, this seemed more metal than Metallica, Slayer, or Iron Maiden. Perhaps it was the ever-changing dynamics of The Downward Spiral and the absolute depravity of Reznor’s voice which, when drilled into the psyche of a teenager, would be cause of unrest and chaotic emotions off the bat. “Mr. Self Destruct” rips and tears while “Piggy” conveys a confident swagger. Trent Reznor has total control of your every sense.
The Downward Spiral was a gamechanger, bringing musicianship and art to the next conceptual level for me. Green Day and Metallica were bands. Trent Reznor was an artist. And at the top of his game – he was not to be fucked with. The Downward Spiral remains a piece of living art. Going back on occasion and holding the package and listening to the CD from front to back gives me the same feelings I felt the first time I heard it. It reminds me that music can be more than just going into a basement with your friends and ripping riffs all day. Music can also purge emotions and allow for a better understanding of how using different sounds and utilizing studio space can create a cathartic experience. From “Mr. Self Destruct” to “Hurt”, Trent Reznor takes you on a visceral journey to hell and back and then back to hell. This powerful work of art remains inspirational to me and the other members of my band by reminding us that unfiltered anger and sheer emotion is as important to creativity as just musical prowess and songwriting ability. The Downward Spiral possesses all of the above qualities and is a benchmark album made without conforming to anyone else’s rules.
Posted by donnymutt at 7:00 AM