Tuesday, June 26, 2018
Nine Inch Nails-The Downward Spiral (halo 8)
Released on March 8, 1994 on nothing records and Interscope Records, The Downward Spiral (halo 8) is the second full-length studio release from Nine Inch Nails that would mark the act in their commercial and critical peak as well as bringing industrial music/industrial rock into the mainstream for better and for worse. Songs written, produced, and performed by Trent Reznor with production by Mark “Flood” Ellis on several tracks. The album would mark Reznor’s first collaboration with mixing engineer Alan Moulder who was known then for his work with My Bloody Valentine and Curve. The album would also feature contributions from then/future members of the NIN live band in drummer/programmer Chris Vrenna, keyboardist/programmer Charlie Clouser, and multi-instrumentalist Danny Lohner as well as other contributions from Jane’s Addiction/Porno for Pyros drummer Stephen Perkins, King Crimson guitarist Adrian Belew, Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee, and Reznor’s old Exotic Birds bandmate Andy Kubiszewski.
The album would be the first of several concept albums Reznor would make for his career as he would explore the ideas of self-destruction, anger, and self-loathing on this record as these are themes he would venture into for much of his career. Musically, the album would mark a major evolution of NIN where the pop elements of Pretty Hate Machine and the abrasive industrial metal of Broken would mesh into something far more intricate sonically as well in its atmosphere. The result would be one of the finest albums of the 1990s as well as a definitive recording in the history of popular music.
The album opener Mr. Self Destruct opens with sounds of a beating sampled from George Lucas’ THX 1138 as the beats continue that is followed by these eerie layers of noisy and chugging beats as Reznor sings quietly until he snarls through the chorus with lyrics that are filled with an element of nihilism and darkness. The song, through its intense production by Reznor and Flood, would also include a quiet section that include these swirling guitar textures by Adrian Belew that would later build up. The mid-tempo jazz-inspired Piggy is led by this slow yet steady rhythm as Reznor with its smooth bass line, noisy synthesizer backgrounds, a swooning organ, and Reznor’s soft yet crooning vocals as he sings these lyrics of indifference and disappointment as it would get a little intense though maintaining its steady rhythm that includes a warbling drum solo by Reznor. Heresy is this beat-heavy track filled with driving synthesizers, pounding beats, and Reznor’s distorted vocals as he sings about the fallacy of revolution with a rocking chorus with the words “God is dead and no one cares. If there is a hell, I’ll see your there” as it include some guitars and droning synthesizers.
The album’s first single March of the Pigs is a fast-paced song with pummeling beats mixed with live drums, melodic synthesizer drones, and a driving guitar to Reznor’s snarling vocals as he sings these lyrics that are confrontational as it has this unique structure where it is this song that would rock and then go into a soft-mode by its droning synthesizers and a melodic piano riff as Reznor sings the song in a normal tone. The album’s second single Closer is definitely one of the most famous songs by NIN due to its explicit lyrics of sex and alienation as well as its offbeat presentation with a heartbeat rhythm sampled partially from the Iggy Pop song Nightclubbing. The song’s production by Flood and Reznor with Alan Moulder’s intricate mixing would include these layers of synthesizers that are melodic to eerie during the second verse as it would later include snarling guitars towards its coda as Reznor sings in a distorted manner as it is one of the finest songs of the 20th Century.
Ruiner is a multi-layered track with rhythmic beats, scratchy electronic textures and swirling synthesizers that would become aggressive through Reznor’s snarling vocals in part of its verse and then go into something grand for its chorus that is filled with lyrics of existence and searching for answers to questions that are complex. It’s a song with a unique structure in its tempo and tonal changes as it includes a middle part with Reznor playing a fuzz-based guitar solo that is accompanied by windy keyboards. The Becoming is a mid-tempo track led by a dissonant piano riff with scratchy synthesizer textures, hammering beats, sampled noises from the film Robot Joxx as Reznor sings in a calm manner through these lyrics of loss and de-humanization as it would include a mixture of acoustic and electric guitars from Adrian Belew as it is one of the album’s standout cuts.
I Do Not Want This is a mid-tempo track that is led by looped drum fills by Stephen Perkins through Reznor and Flood’s treatment and Moulder’s distorted mixing as Reznor sings calmly in the song as he plays a few piano chords with noisy synthesizers in the background. Reznor would sing these calm yet unsettling lyrics of loss and anger as it would include these bridges as he sings in a distorted mix that add to the darkness and then return to something calm only to snarl through its chorus with driving guitars. Big Man with a Gun opens with screams by Tommy Lee as it is followed by pummeling beats, driving synthesizers, thrashing guitars from Danny Lohner, and Reznor’s vocals as he sings darkly-comical lyrics of violence and madness as it is one of the album’s controversial songs but in an offbeat way. The instrumental A Warm Place is this haunting yet beautiful cut that is led largely by its swooning synthesizers with its rich production by Flood and Reznor as it has these ambient elements and melodic synthesizers that is really one of the album’s best cuts.
Eraser starts off with scratchy noises and eerie humming as it then followed by these steady yet hammering mid-tempo beats which is later followed by droning synthesizer melodies. The sounds of synthesizers and its production would intensify with sounds of dissonant guitar melodies appearing and then would soften up with Reznor singing these haunting lyrics of despair as it then goes into full-blown rock with its angrier sound with Reznor screaming for death. Reptile is a mid-tempo track that starts off in quiet tone with sounds of industrial machines sampled from the 1989 film Leviathan and bleeping synthesizer melodies before becoming this menacing and broad song filled with powerful beats, droning synthesizers, and Reznor’s haunting vocals as he sings these rich yet dark imagery into the lyrics that add to this growing air of loss and inhumanity as the song later include snarling guitars in another of the great cuts on the album.
The album’s title track starts off quietly with its haunting sounds of flies and droning noise textures as it would followed by a melodic acoustic guitar and it would slowly build up into something menacing and unsettling into something intense in a low mix by Moulder through sounds of screams, driving guitars, Andy Kubiszewski’s warbling drums, and Reznor quietly singing lyrics of a man committing suicide in graphic detail. The album closer in Hurt is definitely one of the most famous songs by NIN as this haunting ballad that is led by sounds of winds, a distorted acoustic guitar, and Reznor’s calm vocals to lyrics of despair and loss that would include this chorus that is accompanied by Chris Vrenna’s steady drumming. It is a powerful song that do play into this sense of loss but also acceptance as it is another of the finest songs of the 20th Century that would later be covered famously by country music legend Johnny Cash.
On November 23, 2004, the album was re-released and reissued for its 10th anniversary in two different formats with the first being a dual-disc version (halo 8-DVD-A) which presents the album in a new remastered (not the Godfather of Soul with the same name) for both CD and DVD with the DVD portion featuring the album its 5.1 Surround Sound mix by Reznor and James Brown (not the Godfather of Soul of the same name) plus music videos for March of the Pigs, Closer, and Hurt as well as a photo gallery of the album’s artwork by Russell Mills and its discography at that time. The deluxe edition of the album (halo 8 DE) features the original album with its 5.1. Surround Sound mix by Reznor and Brown as well as a second disc of material from that period including two non-album tracks from film soundtracks, remixes from singles and the Further Down the Spiral remix album and three unreleased demos.
The two non-LP cuts from film soundtracks that NIN has contributed with the first being a cover of Joy Division’s Dead Souls for the 1994 film The Crow by Alex Proyas which was also a bonus track for the Japanese edition of The Downward Spiral. Slowing the original song’s tempo a bit for a smooth mid-tempo tone, Reznor would play much of the instruments with a steady bass line, driving guitars, throbbing beats from Chris Vrenna, and Reznor’s calm vocals as he sings Ian Curtis’ dark and moody lyrics. From the soundtrack to Natural Born Killers that Reznor produced is the song Burn which is mainly a mid-tempo track with trash-can like beats, layers of synthesizer textures from melodic bleeps and droning sounds, and Reznor’s angry vocals that play into its dark lyrics as it would include a section of the song that is intense and fierce with its guitars and live drums from Chris Vrenna.
From the March of the Pigs single is the instrumental B-side A Violet Fluid with its bubbling synthesizers and noise loops and the extended remix of the song in All the Pigs, All Lined Up with sounds of crowd noises, pig snouts and additional instruments in that remix. From the Closer to God remix EP are two remixes of the song Closer and a B-side cover of Soft Cell’s Memorabilia. The Precursor remix of Closer by the industrial group Coil with Danny Hyde is an atmospheric remix filled with warbling layers of synthesizers, distorted vocals, and smooth bass grooves on the remix while Closer to God is a re-working of Closer with new arrangements on the instrumentation by Reznor, Sean Beavan, and Brian Pollock as well as re-worked lyrics by Reznor who also sings the song. The cover of Soft Cell’s Memorabilia by Reznor, Vrenna, Beaven, Pollock, Robin Finck, and John Van Eaten along with samples of a prank phone sex call is an offbeat cover with thumping, distorted beats as well as scratchy synthesizers, soft guitar wails, and Reznor’s calm vocals as he sings Marc Almond’s salacious lyrics.
From the 1995 Further Down the Spiral remix album are three remixes from that album as the first a remix of Piggy called (Nothing Can Stop Me Now) that is produced by Rick Rubin as it starts off as a soft remix with creaking sounds of noise-loops with its chorus featuring pulsating drum beats by famed session musician Kim Bullard and driving guitars by Jane’s Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro. The remix for The Downward Spiral known as The Bottom by members of the group Coil with Danny Hyde starts off as this haunting mix with layers of noise loops of the song with warbling whistles as it is then followed by a scream and is largely filled by this sound of sprinkling synthesizer melodies with warbling beats and wailing guitars appearing. The (quiet) remix of Hurt by Reznor is a cleaner mix of the song with a more clear sound on the guitar and a less dramatic climax with some of its distorted sounds from the original album.
Exclusive to the deluxe edition of the album are its three demos which were previously unreleased with two of its demos for Ruiner and Reptile with the latter called Liar were produced by Reznor and Flood while the demo for Heresy is produced by Reznor. The demo for Ruiner doesn’t feature the hammering beats in the final version for its verses until it reaches its bridge while it has portions of the song that doesn’t have Reznor singing parts of the song during its grander moments. Liar is a demo that is nearly realized in its final version though Reznor’s vocals sounds more like a draft of what he wanted to do vocally though it didn’t have the proper mix that would be provided by Alan Moulder. The demo for Heresy is presented in a slower tempo in its beats with Reznor whispering on the vocals for the song’s verse as the chorus include a droning bass line.
The Downward Spiral is an outstanding album from Nine Inch Nails. It is an intense and rich album in terms of its aggression, high-octane production, fusion of hard-edge industrial rock with elements of pop and experimental music, and abrasive yet complex lyrics. It is an album that has this element of danger but also with songs that are fun to sing along to no matter how nihilistic some of the songs are. In the end, The Downward Spiral is a magnificent album from Nine Inch Nails.
Nine Inch Nails: halos: halo 1 - halo 2 - halo 3 - halo 4 - halo 5 - halo 6 - halo 7 - halo 9 – halo 10 – halo 11 – halo 12 - halo 13 – (halo 14) – (halo 15) – (halo 16) – (halo 17) - (halo 18) – (halo 19) – (halo 20) – (halo 21) – (halo 22) - (halo 23) – (halo 24) – (halo 25) – (halo 26) – (halo 27) - (halo 28) – (halo 29) – (halo 30) – (halo 31) – (halo 32)
seeds: (seed 1) – (seed 2) – (seed 3) – (seed 4) – (seed 5) – (seed 6) – (seed 7) – (seed 8)
Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross Film Soundtracks: null 1 - null 2 - (null 3) – (null 4) – (null 5) – (null 6) - (null 7)
Soundtracks/Miscellaneous: The Broken Movie - Natural Born Killers OST – Quake OST - Lost Highway OST
Live Shows: (NIN/Bauhaus/TV on the Radio-6/7/06 Atlanta, GA Hi-Fi Buys Amphitheater) – (NIN/Deerhunter-8/13/08 Duluth, GA Gwinnett Arena) - (Jane’s Addiction/NIN/Street Sweeper Social Club-5/10/09 Atlanta, GA Hi-Fi Buys Amphitheater) – NIN/Godspeed You! Black Emperor-10/24/13 Atlanta, GA Philips Arena - NIN/Jesus & Mary Chain/Tobacco-9/27/18 Atlanta, GA Fox Theatre
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