The Downward Spiral
|The Downward Spiral|
|Studio album by Nine Inch Nails|
|Released||March 8, 1994|
|Recorded||1993; 10050 Cielo Drive, Benedict Canyon, Los Angeles (Le Pig) in Beverly Hills; Record Plant Studios and A&M Studios in Los Angeles|
|Genre||Industrial rock, industrial metal, alternative rock|
|Producer||Trent Reznor, Flood|
|Nine Inch Nails chronology|
|Halo numbers chronology|
|Singles from The Downward Spiral|
The Downward Spiral is the second studio album by American industrial rock act Nine Inch Nails, released March 8, 1994, on Interscope Records. It is a concept album detailing the destruction of a man, from the beginning of his "downward spiral" to his climactic attempt at suicide. The Downward Spiral features elements of industrial rock, techno, and heavy metal, in contrast to Nine Inch Nails' electronic dance music-influenced Pretty Hate Machine.
Co-produced by Trent Reznor and Flood, the album was conceived after the Lollapalooza 1991 festival tour as a pivot for the negative energy felt in the concerts. He moved to 10050 Cielo Drive, Benedict Canyon, Los Angeles in Beverly Hills, California the following year, where Broken and The Downward Spiral were recorded with collabrations from other musicians. It was influenced by late 1970s rock music albums like David Bowie's Low and Pink Floyd's The Wall.
The album entered the Billboard 200 at number two and was certified quadruple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for shipments of four million copies in the United States. The Downward Spiral was a major commercial success that established Nine Inch Nails as a reputable force in the 1990s music scene. It has been widely regarded by music critics as the band's best work. A companion remix album, Further Down the Spiral, was released in 1995. To mark the album's tenth anniversary, The Downward Spiral was re-released on November 23, 2004 in high-resolution SACD and DualDisc formats.
Writing and recording
The Downward Spiral was conceived after the Lollapalooza festival tour as a pivot for the negative energy felt in the concerts. Nine Inch Nails live performances were known for its aggressive on-stage dynamic, with band members acting angry and destroying instruments. Trent Reznor had a feud with TVT Records that resulted in him co-founding Nothing Records with his former manager John Malm, Jr. and signing with Interscope. He has memories of his actions and thoughts during the development the album, interpreting it as a extension of himself that "became the truth fulfilling itself," as he experienced personal and social issues after its release until he rehabilitated from drugs in 2001. He had a desire to explore a character who affects all elements of his life. He made an evolving concept about the album's dark themes, later using it as lyrics. When developing The Downward Spiral, Reznor experienced drug addiction and felt depressed as he wrote songs related to personal issues. His friends suggested that he could take Prozac, an antidepressant, but this choice did not appeal to him. He wanted the album's sound to diverge from Broken, emphasizing mood, texture, restraint and subtlety, although he was not sure about its musical direction. The album was made with "full range" and focused on texture and space, avoiding explicit usage of guitars or synthesizers.
Reznor searched for and moved to 10050 Cielo Drive in 1992 for recording Broken and The Downward Spiral, a decision made against his initial choice to record the album in New Orleans. 10050 Cielo Drive is referred to as the "Tate House" since Sharon Tate was murdered by members of the Manson Family in 1969; Reznor named the studio "Le Pig" after the message that was scrawled on the front door with Tate's blood by her murderers, and stayed there with Malm for 18 months. He called his first night in 10050 Cielo Drive "terrifying" because he already knew it and read books related to the murders. Reznor chose the Tate house to calibrate his engineering skills and the band bought a large console and two Studer machines as resources, a move that he believed was cheaper than renting. The process of setting up Le Pig took longer than Reznor expected, delaying the release of the album. It was also used for the recording of Marilyn Manson's debut album Portrait of an American Family, which Reznor co-produced. Marilyn Manson accepted Reznor's offer of signing a contract with Nothing Records.
Reznor collaborated with rock musicians, including former Jane's Addiction and Porno for Pyros drummer Stephen Perkins, progressive rock guitarist Adrian Belew, and Chris Vrenna, the last was a drummer for Nine Inch Nails. Belew's first visit to the studio involved playing the guitar parts in "Mr. Self-Destruct", and he was told to play freely, think on reacting to melodies, concentrate on rhythm, and use noise. This approach improved Reznor's confidence in guitars: he found the guitar to be more expressive than the keyboard due to the interface. He praised Reznor for his "command of technology," and commented that the music of Nine Inch Nails made innovations "that are in [his] realm." Vrenna and Perkins played drum parts recorded live in the studio; the tracks were rendered into looped samples. Reznor took a similar approach to recording guitar parts: he would tape 20 to 25-minute long sessions of himself playing guitars on a hard disc recorder with the Studio Vision sequencer.
Most of the music was recorded into a Macintosh computer using a board and manipulated with music editor programs on the computer. Unique effects such as analyzing and inverting the frequency were applied to the tracks to create original sounds. The band would "get an arrangement together" and convert it into analog tape. Reznor sampled excerpts from guitar tracks and processed them to the point of randomness and expression. Among the equipment Reznor used for recording the album are Pro Tools, Digidesign's TurboSynth, a Marshall rack head, the Prophet VS keyboard, and various Jackson and Gibson guitars.
In December 1993, Reznor was confronted by Patti Tate, who asked if he was exploiting Sharon Tate's death in the Tate house. Reznor responded, "No, it's just sort of my own interest in American folklore. I'm in this place where a weird part of history occurred." He later made a statement about this encounter during a 1997 interview with Rolling Stone:
While I was working on [The] Downward Spiral, I was living in the house where Sharon Tate was killed. Then one day I met her sister [Pattie Tate]. It was a random thing, just a brief encounter. And she said: 'Are you exploiting my sister's death by living in her house?' For the first time, the whole thing kind of slapped me in the face. I said, 'No, it's just sort of my own interest in American folklore. I'm in this place where a weird part of history occurred.' I guess it never really struck me before, but it did then. She lost her sister from a senseless, ignorant situation that I don't want to support. When she was talking to me, I realized for the first time, 'What if it was my sister?' I thought, 'Fuck Charlie Manson.' I went home and cried that night. It made me see there's another side to things, you know?
Flood, known for engineering and producing U2 and Depeche Mode albums, was employed as co-producer on The Downward Spiral. The album became his last collaboration with Nine Inch Nails due to creative differences. A "very dangerously self-destructive," humorous short song written for the album, "Just Do It," was not included in the final version and criticized by Flood in that Reznor had "gone too far." Afterwards, Reznor completed the last song written for the album, "Big Man with a Gun," in late 1993. After the album's recording, Reznor moved out and the house was demolished shortly thereafter. The Downward Spiral entered its mixing and mastering processes, done at Record Plant Studios and A&M Studios with Alan Moulder, who subsequently took on more extensive production duties for future album releases. Another unreleased track, "The Beauty of the Drug," was briefly mentioned in a UK interview and was eventually leaked on the Disturbed bootleg.
Music and lyrics
Numerous layers of metaphors are present throughout The Downward Spiral, which leaves it open to wide interpretation. The album relays many concepts of nihilism and is defined by a prominent theme of self-destructive behaviour. It is a concept album in which the overarching plot follows the protagonist's descent into his own inner solipsistic world, through a metaphorical "Downward Spiral", dealing with religion, dehumanization, violence, disease, society, drugs, sex, and finally suicide. This character can be understood as a representation of Reznor himself, since he experienced social and personal issues through the course of Nine Inch Nails' first decade until his rehabilitation in 2001. Reznor described the concept as consisting of "someone who sheds everything around them to a potential nothingness, but through career, religion, relationship, belief and so on."
The Downward Spiral features elements of industrial rock, techno, and heavy metal, a change from the synthpop-influenced Pretty Hate Machine. While the subject matter of both albums dealt with angst, The Downward Spiral has a more sinister tone than Pretty Hate Machine. Reznor regularly uses noise and distortion in his song arrangements, and incorporates dissonance with chromatic melody or harmony (or both). The album features a wide range of textures and moods to illustrate the mental progress of a central character. Reznor's singing follows a similar pattern from beginning to end, frequently moving from whispers to screams.
Reznor has discussed his musical inspiration behind the album:
I was really into electronic music at the time. David Bowie's Low was probably the single greatest influence on The Downward Spiral for me. I got into Bowie in the Scary Monsters era, then I picked up Low and instantly fell for it. I related to it on a song-writing level, a mood level, and on a song-structure level [...] I like working within the framework of accessibility, and songs of course, but I also like things that are more experimental and instrumental, maybe."
Artwork and sketches for The Downward Spiral, "Closer" and "March of the Pigs" by Russell Mills were displayed at the Glasgow School of Art. Mills explained the ideas and materials that made up the painting (titled "Wound") that was used for the cover art:
I had been thinking about making works that dealt with layers, physically, materially and conceptually. I wanted to produce works that were about both exposure and revealing and at the same dealt with closure and covering. Given the nature of the lyrics and the power of the music I was working with, I felt justified in attempting to make works that alluded to the apparently contradictory imagery of pain and healing. I wanted to make beautiful surfaces that partially revealed the visceral rawness of open wounds beneath. The mixed media work 'Wound' was the first piece I tackled in this vein (no pun intended) and it became the cover of the album. It is made of plaster, acrylics, oils, rusted metals, insects, moths, blood (mine), wax, varnishes, and surgical bandaging on a wooden panel.
|Los Angeles Times|||
|The New Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
The Downward Spiral was released in March 1994 to instant success. The album debuted the following week at number two on the US Billboard 200 chart. The album has since sold over four million copies worldwide; on October 28, 1998 the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified the album quadruple platinum, denoting shipments of four million in the United States. The album peaked at number nine on the UK Albums Charts. The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) gave the album a Gold certification for sales of over 100,000 copies in the United Kingdom. It reached number 13 on the Canadian RPM album charts and received a "3x Platinum" certification from the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) for selling 300,000 copies in Canada.
The Downward Spiral has been well received by both music critics and audiences who regarded its abrasive, eclectic nature and dark themes. Many reviewers commented on the concept of a destruction of a man. "Closer", a song about coping with self-hatred, was widely misinterpreted as about lust due to its chorus, which included the line "I wanna fuck you like an animal". The New York Times writer Jon Pareles' review of the album found the music to be highly abrasive. Pareles asserted that unlike other electro-industrial groups like Ministry and Nitzer Ebb, "Reznor writes full-fledged tunes" with stronger use of melodies than riffs. He noticed criticisms of Nine Inch Nails from industrial purists for popularizing the genre and the album's transgression. Robert Christgau gave the album an honorable mention () rating, and commented that, musically, the album was comparable to "Heironymus Bosch as postindustrial atheist", but lyrically, more closely resembled "Transformers as kiddie porn." Jonathan Gold, writing for Rolling Stone, likened the album to cyberpunk fiction. Entertainment Weekly reviewer Tom Sinclair commented: "Reznor's pet topics (sex, power, S&M, hatred, transcendence) are all here, wrapped in hooks that hit your psyche with the force of a blowtorch."
Many retrospective reviews regard The Downward Spiral as one of the most important albums of the 1990s and Reznor's greatest work. The 2004 edition of The New Rolling Stone Album Guide gave the album five out of five stars and called it "a powerful statement, and one of the landmark albums of the Nineties." Writing for Entertainment Weekly, Kyle Anderson remembered watching the music video of "Closer" on MTV as an adolescent and expressed the album changed his perception of popular music from that of songs heard on the radio to albums with cover art.
The album has been listed on several publications' best album lists. In 2003, the album was ranked number 200 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time and number 201 on the list's 2012 online edition. The Rolling Stone staff wrote: "Holing up in the one-time home of Manson-family victim Sharon Tate, Trent Reznor made an overpowering meditation on NIN's central theme: control." It was placed 10th on Spin's 125 Best Albums of the Past 25 Years list; the Spin staff quoted Ann Powers' review that appreciated the album's bleak, aggressive style. It was ranked number 488 in the book The Top 500 Heavy Metal Albums of All Time by heavy metal music critic Martin Popoff. In 2001, Q named The Downward Spiral as one of the 50 Heaviest Albums of All Time; in 2010, the album was ranked number 102 on their 250 Best Albums of Q's Lifetime (1986-2011) list. The Downward Spiral was featured in Robert Dimery's book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.
The success of The Downward Spiral established Nine Inch Nails as a reputable force in the 1990s. After the release of The Downward Spiral, bands such as Mötley Crüe and Skinny Puppy made albums influenced by Nine Inch Nails.
While The Downward Spiral has gained critical and audience acclaim over the years, the album has been controversial due to its dark lyrical themes.
Its emphasis on transgressive themes has made The Downward Spiral's lyrics vulnerable to attack from American social conservatives. Sen. Bob Dole, then head of the Republican Party, sharply criticized Time Warner after a meeting between Michael J. Fuchs (head of the Warner Music Group), William Bennett, and C. Delores Tucker, at which Tucker and Bennett demanded that Fuchs recite lyrics from "Big Man with a Gun" because they thought the lyrics were an attack on the United States Government. Reznor claimed that the lyrics had nothing to do with politics and while "Big Man with a Gun" was a satire of the gangster rap genre, the song was originally about madness. He noticed misintrepretations of the song as misogynistic and associated them with an inability to write, although he wrote the song's lyrics quickly without knowledge of using them.
Before the Columbine High School massacre, two Columbine High School student mass murderers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold referenced lyrics from Nine Inch Nails multiple times in their journals, with the latter specifically naming The Downward Spiral as a symbol of his depression. On May 4, 1999, a hearing on the marketing and distribution practices of violent content to minors by the television, music, film, and video game industries was conducted before the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. The committee heard testimony from cultural observers, professors, and mental-health professionals that included conservative William Bennett and the Archbishop of Denver, Reverend Charles J. Chaput. Participants criticized the album, Nine Inch Nails' label-mate Marilyn Manson, and the 1999 film The Matrix for their alleged contribution to the environment that made tragedies like Columbine possible. The committee requested that the Federal Trade Commission and the United States Department of Justice investigate the entertainment industry's marketing practices to minors.
In 2009, Apple rejected a proposal for a Nine Inch Nails iPhone application, citing objectionable content in The Downward Spiral. Days later, Apple reversed the decision but refused to explain its reasoning.
All songs written and composed by Trent Reznor.
|1.||"Mr. Self Destruct"||4:30|
|4.||"March of the Pigs"||2:58|
|8.||"I Do Not Want This"||5:41|
|9.||"Big Man with a Gun"||1:36|
|10.||"A Warm Place"||3:22|
|13.||"The Downward Spiral"||3:57|
- Japanese pressings contain a bonus track, the Joy Division cover "Dead Souls", originally released on The Crow original soundtrack. This track is placed in between "Big Man with a Gun" and " A Warm Place".
- The opening sounds of "Mr. Self Destruct" are a sample from the film THX 1138 in which a man is being beaten by a prison guard.
- The frantic drumming on the end of "Piggy" is courtesy of Reznor himself. This is currently his first and only attempt at live drumming on a record, and one of the few "live" drum performances on the album. Reznor had stated that the recording was from him testing the microphone setup in studio, but he liked the sound too much not to include it.
- The sample at the beginning of "Big Man with a Gun" comes from a studio-altered recording of a porn star having an orgasm. According to the album booklet, this "sample" is titled "Steakhouse" and is credited to Tommy Lee.
- The break in "Reptile" contains an audio sample (starting at 5:36) of a woman falling down a hill from the 1974 film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
- The sample of screams that plays throughout "The Becoming" is from the film Robot Jox, when a giant robot falls on a crowd of spectators.
- In 2007 Ladytron used the Downward Spiral motif in their remix of "The Beginning of the End" on Year Zero Remixed.
- The first Australian pressing has track time errors. Affected tracks do not play at their beginnings when selected individually ("Big Man with a Gun" has the beginning of "A Warm Place" tacked on, likewise all the songs up to "Hurt" start 41 seconds earlier than they should. "Hurt" itself has 44 seconds of silence on the end as a result), however the disc plays and flows correctly as a whole.
- Deluxe Edition (Halo 8 DE)
Disc one of the album's deluxe edition re-release is identical to the original version, although 1 dB louder mix overall, track anomalies are fixed (sounds from previous tracks creeping up on start of tracks), and it includes a stereo and multi-channel SACD layer. The second bonus disc is a collection of remixes and b-sides and also includes a stereo SACD layer in addition to the Redbook CD layer. The last three tracks on the bonus disc are previously unreleased demo recordings from the original album.
|1.||"Burn" (from Natural Born Killers)||5:00|
|2.||"Closer (Precursor)" (from "Closer to God")||7:16|
|3.||"Piggy (Nothing Can Stop Me Now)" (from Further Down the Spiral)||4:03|
|4.||"A Violet Fluid" (from "March of the Pigs")||1:04|
|5.||"Dead Souls" (from The Crow)||4:53|
|6.||"Hurt (Quiet)" (from Further Down the Spiral, US version)||5:08|
|7.||"Closer to God" (from "Closer to God")||5:06|
|8.||"All the Pigs, All Lined Up" (from "March of the Pigs")||7:26|
|9.||"Memorabilia" (from "Closer to God")||7:22|
|10.||"The Downward Spiral (The Bottom)" (from Further Down the Spiral)||7:32|
|12.||"Liar (Reptile Demo)"||6:57|
- DualDisc (Halo 8 DVD-A)
The DualDisc edition of The Downward Spiral contains the same CD content on Side A as the Deluxe Edition, with a DVD-Audio layer on Side B. When played on DVD-Video players a Dolby Digital 5.1 multi-channel or Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo mix of The Downward Spiral can be selected, along with videos of "March of the Pigs", "Hurt" and an uncensored video of "Closer". There is also an interactive discography and an image gallery. When played on a DVD-Audio player a high resolution 24-bit/48 kHz Advanced Resolution Surround and stereo versions of The Downward Spiral can be played, allowing the user a similar high fidelity experience as the SACD layer of the Deluxe Edition. The DualDisc release does not contain the additional b-sides and demo tracks.
Charts and certifications
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- Album Review — By AbsolutePunk
- Album Review — By Alternative Press
- Album Review — By Time
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- Halo 8 at NinWiki.com