I'm re-writing this review for “The Downward Spiral” because I now think my original review isn't that good, so here's a better one for you folks.
Here we go again, another mainstream release from the 90's that's been overrated beyond belief. Even in my teenage years, when I had this extremely misguided belief that Tool and Rage Against the Machine were the best bands the music world had to offer, I wasn't impressed with Nine Inch Nails. Now that I'm an adult who's listened to a ton of underground metal and industrial bands, my hatred for NIN and Trent Reznor has only escalated much higher than in past years.
Now you may be thinking “What does this have to do with the music?” I'll tell you. Reznor really wants you to believe that he's this dark and edgy musician, but when you compare this criminally overrated “classic” with the prime works of industrial bands like Front Line Assembly, Laibach, and Godflesh, you'll know right off the bat that Reznor is nothing more than a pop musician in the disguise of a troubled, gritty musician. The fact that Reznor is such a blatant egomaniac who thinks he can smash Front Line Assembly in a 1992 interview with Spin magazine doesn't help, either.
The way these songs on this album are executed ultimately proves that Reznor has absolutely zero respect for the industrial music artform, or for music in general. What's ultimately worse is that Reznor is terribly diluted into believing that he's actually being “unique,” when he's just taking excrement and serving it up in an aesthetically-pleasing fashion for gullible, angst-laden teenagers who haven't yet learned what real industrial music is.
The general music style for “The Downward Spiral” can be summed up in that Reznor dilutes mechanical industrial keyboards and beats, mixes them with corny “quiet” sections and distorted guitar riffs, and neatly arranges them in a pop song structure as to not lose the potential of giant record sales among mainstream music listener.
Reznor's vocals on this album are terrible. They're either juvenile screaming or whiny singing. I'm not joking, Reznor would be better suited for a run of the mill alternative rock band rather than an industrial band. The vocalwork alone is terrible, but his lyrics futher damage this album.
What ultimately infuriates me is that Reznor has this stupid idea that it's the lyrics that are the main source of providing a certain atmosphere to music rather than the instrumental compositions. Reznor sells the idea that he's a “dark musician” by penning extremely hammy poetry that you'd see in an “outcast” 15 year-old's notebook. Reznor's lyrics are about as edgy as those written by Korn frontman Jonathan Davis. No joke, in the song “Heresy,” Reznor screams out “God is dead, and no one cares!!” Seriously, that's such juvenile songwriting. It gets even worse when in the song “I Do Not Want This,” Reznor says “Don't tell me how too feel!!” In “Piggy,” Reznor whispers out “Nothing can stop me now, because I don't care.” Wow, I'm really feeling the genius in his lyrics. This wouldn't be too bad if Reznor was in his mid-late teens when he wrote these lyrics, but he was in his late 20's when he wrote and recorded this album. Reznor is proof that some people grow up while others just get old.
Now the bad lyrics would be forgivable if Reznor did what good musicians do when they realize their lyrics aren't that good, they bury them behind the instrumental work, and use the instruments to be the main source of atmosphere. However, with this album, you don't get that. Reznor, again, has a massive ego to where he thinks his juvenile lyrics are brilliant to where you have to clearly hear ever word that comes out of his useless mouth.
To be fair, there are traces of potential here. “The Becoming” is what comes closest to being a proper industrial song, as this actually has some deviance from the pop melodies that Reznor almost always confines himself to and actually amps up the darkness and aggression provided from the instruments. However, his lame vocals keep this from being a masterful song. “A Warm Place” is a decent instrumental that along with “The Becoming,” shows that Reznor has the potential to make decent music when he feels like it, but that's where any sort of praise ends.
The rest of this album is laughable at best, painful at worst. “Mr. Self Destruct” is a ho-hum industrial metal hybrid, and that's really all I can say. “Closer” epitomizes my point that Reznor tries to use “dark” lyrics to make up for the fact that the instrumental work on that song is really tepid, and this doesn't help that he tried to go even further by releasing a hokey music video with a shaved naked girl and a spinning pig's head. “March of the Pigs” is another trying-too-hard “noisy” industrial-metal hybrid with that goofy “quiet” interludes (where he says “How does it make you feel?) in a bad attempt at showing dynamics. “Big Man With a Gun” tries to sound like a proper industrial song mixed with some guitars, but it still falls flat, and it's hurt even more with Reznor's over-the-top whiny alt-rock styled singing. “Piggy” tries to set itself apart from the rest of the album by being primarily drum and bass-driven with whispering vocals that eventually pick up in aggression later in the song, but these just show how untalented Reznor really is. I think I made my point about the songs.
Like many overrated mainstream “classic” albums, the sound quality on this is too clean and sterile for an album that's supposed to be “dark and gritty.” It's made to be even more laughable that Reznor thought he was going to make this album even darker by recording it in the house that the Charlie Manson “family” murdered some of their victims. This just shows that Reznor is trying everything to be “dark” besides crafting music that's actually dark.
“The Downward Spiral” is NOT the “dark and edgy” industrial-rock masterpiece that Trent Reznor or mainstream media outlets like MTV want you to think it is. Reznor resorts to every gimmick to make his music seem “dark.” It's funny how respectable industrial bands like Front Line Assembly and Godflesh resorted only to making music that's actually dark to push this across.
Skip this counterfeit material and go for the genuine articles in industrial music.
Godflesh: “Streetcleaner” and “Pure/Cold World/Slavestate” (this is one boxed set)
Front Line Assembly: “Caustic Grip,” “Tactical Neural Implant,” and “The Initial Command”
Die Krupps: “Stahlwerksynfonie” and “I”
Laibach: “Opus Dei” and “Nova Akropola”
Skinny Puppy: “Bites,” “Too Dark Park,” and “Last Rights”
Spahn Ranch: “Anthology 1992-1994”
Swans: “Filth/Body to Body, Job to Job”
Once you start listening to the above albums, you'll soon be throwing away any Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson albums you might have.
What did you think of this review?