The Downward Spiral #4: “Ruiner” and “The Becoming”

This is part four my The Downward Spiral Series. Here is the first, second, and third parts if you missed any.

#6 Ruiner, the sixth song on The Downward Spiral Nine Inch Nails album, was also a harder one for me to interpret. Some people believe that it is about someone being betrayed by another person, a ruiner. But I think it is a more internal battle that is being portrayed in the song. Up until now on the album, the songs have not been as “industrial” sounding as this. You can really hear the change in tone of the instruments in the almost seamless transition between “Closer” and “Ruiner.” The use of the more harsh sounds demonstrates that the albums character is becoming less human and more “mechanical.” He loses his connection with people and his emotions, crucial aspects that defines humans. Drugs, mentioned cryptically through the song, help in the demise of his humanistic aspects. At the beginning of the song, he refers to the Ruiner (or the drugs) as something that has taken a part of him–his emotions. But by the end of the song, he states that the drugs gave him a “perfect ring of scars” and that “nothing can hurt me now” since he feels nothing.

#7 The seventh song, “The Becoming” continues to show the man’s transition from human to machine. He kills all the parts that he deems bad aka human/emotions. No one can recognize him any more since he is made up of “circuitry.” And with this metamorphosis, “all pain disappears.” There is still a part of him that is left. A conscious part that sees how the machine is taking over him, how he is losing his emotions, his relationships, his tie with life. But he cannot escape: “it won’t give up, it wants me dead/and goddamn this noise inside my head.” What I think is the most interesting line in the song though is “annie hold a little tighter/I might just slip away.” Who is this Annie?  Is it the same woman that caused him so much pain in “Piggy?” Any ideas? 

Although the character’s case in these two songs are an extreme, there are countless people that struggle with an inside voice in their head that ostracizes them from their family, friends, and potentially the whole world around them. They cannot break away from this voice for multitudes of reasons and gradually become only a fraction of themselves.

I would like to tell you that the songs get happier from this point on in the album but they don’t. Please stay with me though because in the next few days feature really amazing pieces of music. I will leave you with this video of Trent doing a piano rendition of “The Becoming.” I think this version is even better than the studio version.

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2 Comments

Filed under Industrial, NIN, The Downward Spiral, Trent Reznor

2 responses to “The Downward Spiral #4: “Ruiner” and “The Becoming”

  1. Haha, all these songs are so heavy-loaded with meaning! Sounds like music by tortured artists to me. I like your interpretations of them though. You’re really insightful. 🙂

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