We’ve finally managed to get our hands on some copies of this beast of a record. Perhaps the greatest moment of critical/commercial success of all time alongside being one of the outright darkest releases to breach mainstream radio.
This is Nine Inch Nails's masterpiece. It’s a piece of art that bridges genres, concepts and stories to piece together a transcendental record that tortures, assaults and destroys both the listener and the protagonist of the record. The album's 'Inferno'-like descent into mortal decay, self-harm, abuse, regret and ultimately suicide is as memorable as it is heartbreaking.
It inverts the soundscapes of ‘Low’ into something more hellish and violent, and introspects the epic drama of ‘The Wall’ towards Trent Reznor’s struggle and years-long disassociation that led to his overdose on the next album tour for ‘The Fragile’. Recorded at the site of Sharon Tate’s murder in isolation after exploding onto the scene after their debut, the record embodies the psychological unease of both the makeshift studio and anguish of Reznor after years of gradual decline into mental illness and drug addiction.
This metamorphosis is heard across the record as it marks the devolution of the protagonist into something less than human, either a machine or a pig. The record doesn’t get credit for its space, which grants much-needed respites from the crushing and oppressive atmosphere of the album. ‘A Warm Place’, ‘Reptile’ (S/O its Texas Chainsaw Massacre sample) and the title track all give breathing room from the bludgeoning of opener ‘Mr. Self Destruct’ or ‘March of the Pigs’. Reznor has also dismissed ‘Closer’ as what it’s commonly interpreted as and serves more as a warning rather than an endorsement (also the ‘Nightclubbing’ sample is one of our favourites).
Whilst NIN boast other great releases at all points of their catalogue such as their outstanding debut ‘Pretty Hate Machine’, their latest underrated run of EPs (‘Not the Actual Events’ and ‘Bad Witch’) and all the excellent film scores for the last few David Fincher films.
They’ve also now retired from touring so it appears it’s only soundtracks from here on in, and maybe more in the ambient series, ‘Ghosts’.
In short, one of the best rock records of all time and a top-five release of the 1990s.