Time Magazine

April 1994

Nailism Nine Inch Nails Has A Fine - If Knee-Jerk Nihilistic - New CD

On The Downward Spiral, the bracing new album by Nine Inch Nails, the mood starts off grim and deteriorates fast. The record opens with a volley of gunshot-like reports that mutate into the techno thrash of Mr. Self Destruct, on which composer-singer Trent Reznor screams, "I am the voice inside your head - and I control you."

The downbeat slide continues on Piggy, which uses a warped reggae pulse punctuated by slamming drums and Reznor's insinuating vocal to conjure an uneasy atmosphere of malice, and on Heresy, in which Reznor sings, "God is dead and no one cares/ If there is a hell I will see you there." Subsequent cuts evoke paranoia, murder and finally suicide. The lyrics on the title cut include the lines "He couldn't believe how easy it was/ He put the gun into his face/ Bang!/ So much blood for such a tiny hole."

This is not music for the squeamish - or even the optimistic. Meshing the angry nihilism of punk and heavy metal with the synthetic sheen of techno, The Downward Spiral is a 14-song, 65-minute howl of somebody falling into the void. What keeps it from being just another nauseating exercise in shock rock is the intelligence and creative force behind its dire sound. On March of the Pigs, for example, layers of shifting static are suddenly broken by a lyrical piano riff that blooms like a flower through cracked pavement before the wall of noise crushes it again.

Reznor maintains that the message of The Downward Spiral is ultimately uplifting. "I think the very act of wanting to discover and uncover unpleasantries is itself positive," he says. "The act of trying to rid yourself of these demons, to prepare yourself for the worst, is a positive thing." If only Kurt Cobain, who purveyed a similarly despairing view of the world, had looked at things that way.

By Guy Garcia

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Nine Inch Nails
Nine Inch Nails
This article is provided courtesy Keith Duemling and Tracy Thompson from the collection previously located at SUS.