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Nine Inch Nails - The Downward Spiral

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The Downward Spiral (also known as Halo 8) is Nine Inch Nails' second studio album, though it is largely considered the third major release after the Broken EP, which consisted of entirely new material. It was released on March 8, 1994. It is likely the most acclaimed and well-known of the band's discography, and is said to have brought "industrial" music to the mainstream.

Reznor set out to make an album that was a departure from the Broken EP ("when I went into the studio, I knew that I didn't want to make Broken again"), which he described as "a real hard-sounding record that was just one big blast of anger." Instead, Reznor wanted to create an album "that went in 10 different directions, but that was all united somehow."

Reznor brought in a number of guest performers to record, including Stephen Perkins and Adrian Belew. Perkins played a number of drum parts that were recorded live in the studio; these tracks were then turned into sample loops. Reznor took a similar approach to recording guitar parts. Reznor would record 20 to 25-minute long sessions of himself playing guitar on a hard disc recorder with a Studio Vision sequencer, then would cut out parts of the recording he found interesting for later use. Reznor said, "99 percent of the stuff we do–even vocals–is recorded into the computer [hard disk] first. We get an arrangement together and then dump it to tape." For "Mr. Self Destruct", Reznor ran the entire mix through the mic pre-amps of several modules plundered from an old Neve board.

There are numerous layers of metaphors that are present throughout the album, which leaves it open to wide interpretation. As a whole, The Downward Spiral is defined by Nietzschean concepts and a prominent theme of existentialism. It is a concept album in which the overarching plot follows the protagonist moving through his own "Downward Spiral", dealing with religion, dehumanization, violence, disease, society, drugs, sex, and finally suicide. Reznor has stated that the character is a representation of himself:

"...it was during that tour (Self Destruct) that problems started to arise. Prior to that I would have considered myself pretty normal. With the Downward Spiral, I can remember where I was in my head, what I was thinking, and I can remember writing that record, and the mindset. This record that was about an extension of me, became the truth fulfilling itself.

Most fans seem to agree that "Closer" (noted for its "I want to fuck you like an animal" lyric) has meaning deeper than its surface lyrics (note the desperate dependency expressed by the final line, "you are the reason I stay alive"). The narrator was not exactly modeled after Reznor's previous life, though he would later go through his own sort of "downward spiral" during the Fragility tour, battling issues such as drug abuse.

Track Listings:
    1. "Mr. Self Destruct" 4:30
    2. "Piggy" 4:24
    3. "Heresy" 3:54
    4. "March of the Pigs" 2:58
    5. "Closer" 6:13
    6. "Ruiner" 4:58
    7. "The Becoming" 5:31
    8. "I Do Not Want This" 5:41
    9. "Big Man with a Gun" 1:36
    10. "A Warm Place" 3:22
    11. "Eraser" 4:54
    12. "Reptile" 6:51
    13. "The Downward Spiral" 3:57
    14. "Hurt" 6:13
Total Time: 65:02
Artist Name(s):
Trent Reznor – vocals, all instruments, drums
Mark "Flood" Ellis – hi-hat, ARP 2600 synthesizer
Chris Vrenna – drums
Adrian Belew – texture generating guitar
Danny Lohner – additional guitar
Andy Kubiszewski – drums
Stephen Perkins – drum loops
trent Reznor, Flood
Release Year: 1994
Album Type:
Cassette, Compact Disc, Digital / Download, LP 33 1/3
Cover & Packge Design:
Russell Mills, David Buckland, Gary Talpas, Rob Sheridan
Studio Name:
Le Pig Of Beverly Hills, Record Plant, A&M Studios
Mastering: Gateway Mastering, AcousTech Mastering
Engineer(s): John Aguto, Brian Pollack
Label / Publishing
Label Name:
Nothing - Interscope
Catalog Number(s):
Beverly Hills, CA
Editions / Reissues
  1. Nothing Records, Interscope Records, TVT Records intd-92346 US 1994
  2. Interscope Records A4 92346 Canada 1994
  3. Interscope Records UICY-91668 Japan Unknown
  4. TVT/Interscope ILPSD 8012/522 126- 1 UK 2009
  5. Nothing Records, TVT Records, Interscope Records, Universal UICY-6160 Japan 2007
Synthesizers Used
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