Category Archives: The Downward Spiral

The Downward Spiral Series Finale (#7): “The Downward Spiral” and “Hurt”

You can probably guess by the lack of post yesterday that the hotel didn’t have internet. Heck, they didn’t even have a pool. But I am back and ready to finish up The Downward Spiral Nine Inch Nails series. Here are the links for the other parts of the series: first, second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth.

#12 The Downward Spiral, the namesake of the album, is the song where everything comes together and everything falls apart. All the melodies from previous songs intertwine in the most interesting and beautiful ways. For being the “climax” of the album, it is very diminutive and devoid of the loud, emotional outburst in the previous songs. That however does not decrease the power; it augments it. Here are the lyrics for the song. Like “Eraser,” they are short but so raw and powerful.

he couldn’t believe how easy it was
he put the gun into his face
(so much blood from such a tiny little hole)

problems have solutions
a lifetime of fucking things up fixed in one determined flash

everything’s blue
in this world
the deepest shade of mushroom blue
all fuzzy
spilling out of my head 

It is obvious from the lyrics that the character in the album, after going through mental hell, decides that the only way to end the mental anguish is death. The most poignant line I feel is “a lifetime of fucking things up fixed in one determined flash.” I of course do not condone suicide. There are always other solutions. But I know how it feels to think that there are no solutions to the current problems. Everything seems unfixable; everything seems too hard. And when you are alone (or feel alone) these problems multiply and become almost unbearable. What has undoubtivly helped me through those times is asking people for help. Without my mother I don’t know what I would have done, nor do I even want to know.

(This video was made by a fan. I normally don’t post fan videos since they are not very good, but this one does a great job capturing the essence of the song.)

#14 “Hurt” is probably the next most well-know Nine Inch Nails song and rightly so. I have yet to listen to this song without tearing up. The pain, regret, and anguish portrayed in Trent Reznor’s voice is breathtaking and so sorrowful. Even sadder is the fact that the song (and whole album) prophesizes the next few years for Trent. Here is a man that has so much. He pioneered the industrial rock genre; he has influenced countless artists; he has created some of the most powerful music people will ever hear (his “empire of dirt”). But he struggled after the release of The Downward Spiral, slipping into alcohol and drugs. He isolated himself from his band members, his friends, his family. He let everyone down, he made them hurt. “Hurt” is frighteningly like a apology letter to his loved ones before his own downward spiral. (Side note: He did recover, go on to produce many other Nine Inch Nails albums, and recently win a Oscar for “The Social Network” soundtrack. However, the pathway for his recovery was difficult both physically and mentally.)

Many different theories have circulated about the ending of the song with the electric guitar blast and the ensuing white noise. Is it the character’s (and thus Trent’s, since they are so entertwined in the album) death followed the absence of life? Or is the last stanza promising a break from the self-destructive behavior? A belief that he is worth keeping. A belief that he is worth something.

Which ever the case, this song (and video) will always be a favorite of mine. It provides a perfect ending to one of the most amazing albums in existence. The Downward Spiral is so raw, powerful, rich in meaning, and strikingly beautiful. It has gotten me through battles with mental illnesses and “everyday” problems.

Thank you Trent. I doubt you will ever know how much of an inspiration (and not just musically) you are to your fans.



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

The Downward Spiral #6: “Eraser” and “Reptile”

This is the sixth post of The Downward Spiral Nine Inch Nails Series. If you want/need to read the others, here are the links:
FirstSecondThirdFourth, Fifth posts.

#11 “Eraser” picks up where “A Warm Place” (#10) ends, including even the basic musical rhythms. Thoughout the song, more and more layers of  sound are added. The character, not in his “warm place” anymore, hears his internal voice louder and louder. Finally, it gets too much and he lashes out at the woman that has been mentioned throughout the album. The lyrics, though few, are so raw and powerful that I had to post them here:

need you
dream you
find you
taste you
fuck you
use you
scar you
break you

lose me
hate me
smash me
erase me
kill me 

He lets down everyone, not just the woman, and decides the only way to make amends is to “erase” himself. This in my mind is even worst that death. Death means the end of life but erasure means never having lived at all. So to wish that one’s whole life never happened is the most horrible and saddest thing someone can wish for.

Here is a live version of the song. Why the heck wasn’t I old enough to understand their greatness when they were still touring? Anyone see one of their concerts live? I would be jealous but would love to hear about it!  

#12 “Reptile.” What can I say about you. Other than of course you are the epitome of an industrial rock song. If someone ever asks what industrial sounds like, play this. No other group has been able to reproduce this mechanical, deep, disturbing, but beautiful sound. And the lyrics! Yes, it is describing a prostitute so be careful where you listen (or sing) this. But the prositute (one that the main character goes to in a final attempt to connect with the world) is not the “impure” one in this song. She is portrayed as a “liar” and a fake, things she has been forced to do for her profession. The character though is impure. For hiring her and for the things he has done in his life. And Trent Reznor does a great job “showing” us this with the emotion in his voice. As he sings about the prostitute, there is almost a loving tone to his voice. But when he speaks of himself and the depths of this loneliness (“I now know the depth I read are limitless”), he only has contempt.

Just a note: the next post is the last one of the series. I will hopefully have internet so I can post it tomorrow but I might not. I am going to a cousin’s wedding in South Dakota and the hotel may or may not have internet. But it will be up no later that late Sunday. I am very excited to write about the last two songs, especially “Hurt.”


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

The Downward Spiral #5- “I Do Not Want This,” “Big Man With A Gun,” and “A Warm Place”

This is the fifth post of The Downward Spiral Nine Inch Nails Series. If you need to catch up or review: First, Second, Third, Fourth posts.

#8 As discussed in previous posts, the character in the album is slowly spiraling down into isolation, depression, psychosis, and self-hatred. In “I Do Not Want This,” he tries to reach out to people for help (“and oh so sick I am… and maybe this is a cry for help”). However, this fails–perhaps in part because the people did not know how to help him but mostly because he was unwilling to accept the help. He states, “you don’t know just how I feel” and “don’t tell me that you care,” demonstrating that he doesn’t believe anything or anyone can help him. This is one of the worst feelings in the world: believing that no one can or wants to help you. You feel completely alone and hate your self for it. Trent, with his sudden transition from dulcetly singing to screaming in rage, does an amazing job portraying both the characters extreme sadness and anger. That is one thing that makes Trent in my mind an utter genius–his ability to create and perform songs in a way that makes the listener feel those emotions. Oh, and the music between 3-4:30 is incredible. I don’t even know how Trent made or came up with those sounds but they are novel, almost grating, but beautiful.

#9″Big Man With A Gun” is really the only song I do not like on this album so I won’t spend too much time on it. Basically how I interpret it is the character has gotten to the point where he decides to try to hurt someone, out of madness or to feel something. It is pure anger and insanity.

#10 Finally, after nine hard, industrial, and frensied songs, The Downward Spiral album includes the tranquil “A Warm Place.” This song is so hauntingly beautiful and serene that I have listened to in on repeat to fall asleep on many occasions. But how does it fit into the album? With ease. After “Big Man With A Gun,” probably the most loud, abrasive song on the album, comes “A Warm Place” not only to bring peace to troubled listeners but to demonstrate the human aspects of the character that is still intact. I always think about it like this:

You are battling some internal battle (depression, eating disorder, bipolar etc) and want a break from it all. It becomes too much. So you find a place where you are safe, a place where you can escape from the inside of your mind. This only lasts for a fleeing time until the internal voice again grabs hold of you. And Trent, knowing this, includes at the end of this song a whispering of the harsh industrial sounds that herald the ending of the serene and the return of the turbulent.

NB. The words spoken very softly at the beginning are “The best thing about life is knowing you put it together,” one of my favorite quotes.


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

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.



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

The Downward Spiral #3: “Closer”

This is the third part of my The Downward Spiral Series. Here are the links to the first and second parts if you  need to get caught up.

#5 The fifth song on The Downward Spiral album, “Closer,” is probably the most known Nine Inch Nail’s song. It was played excessively in the mid-90s and was know for its explicit chorus, “I want to fuck you like an animal.” Because of this line, many people describe it as one of the sexiest songs ever. However, in the context of the album, it has a completely un-sexy meaning. As the main character goes further down the spiral of depression, anxiety, and psychosis, he turns to meaningless, animalistic sex to make him feel again–to feel anything again. But this does not work. Throughout the whole song, we can see he is going further into his depression. He talks about how his “whole existence is flawed,” how he has no “soul to sell,”  how having sex is the only time he feels good about himself since it makes him “perfect” and “helps [him] get away from [his self].” This song is anything but sexy: it is a desperate cry for help and one of the saddest songs I have ever heard.

The music video fits the theme of the of the song perfectly. The raw sexual nature comes from Trent’s overt sexuality, the S&M paraphernalia, and the numerous freudian imagery. The animalistic nature and the idea of the decay of the body comes from the rotten carcasses and heads. The feeling of desperation and despair comes from the dark atmosphere and the emotion in Trent’s voice and body language. Yes it is disturbing and  banned from MTV and youtube, but portrays the message of the song flawlessly.

This song/video is my favorite Nine Inch Nails piece and one of my favorite songs/videos of all time. Never have a heard a song with such raw emotions, such heart-rending lyrics, and such a stunning musical backdrop. Never have I seen a video with such detailed and disturbing but surprisingly beautiful imagery. Trent, you have created a masterpiece that will never age.

Also, if you have 30 minutes to spare, their is an amazing video of the making of the movie that describes the director’s processes and the numerous homages “hidden” in the video.

It may be long but it is well worth your time. Plus, The Closure DVD that this “Making of” video is from is extremely hard to find. I have been looking for a year now and have yet to see it in stores or see someone selling it on Ebay, Amazon, etc.



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

The Downward Spiral #2: “Heresy” and “The March of the Pigs”

This is the second part of my The Downward Spiral Series. So if you missed the first one, you can go back a read a little bit into the album and the its huge importance in my life.

#3. Although some of the songs on The Downward Spiral have layers of hidden meanings, “Heresy” is very forthright and clear.  Some people believe that this song represents Trent’s (Nine Inch Nail’s founder, singer, songwriter…basically the entirety of the group) views on religion aka that Trent does not believe in any god at all. However, I have a completely different view on the song. The main character of the album, as he spirals downward, slowly turns away from religion. Perhaps he was a strong believer and prayed religiously to his god to help him. As things in his life become worse and worse, he revokes his belief and lashes out at other people that believe. He finds fault in christianity, stating that it is “dreamed” up. He shows how god is not always portrayed as forgiving and loving but rather a god that rules over a kingdom of “killing suffering and pain.”

I can relate to this very well. When I was in the worst parts of my eating disorder and depression, I wanted nothing to do with god or any religion. I didn’t understand why god would prevent me from living a normal life and seemingly place obstacle after obstacle in my way. To this day, I still have a rocky relationship with religion. I believe in some higher power but still do not believe in a god that seemingly controls and doles out horrible hardships to his “followers.” I could go on, but I have probably made everyone mad at me and no one will ever read my blog again. But, I really just wanted to show how extreme depression or hardships, similar to the problems faced by the character in the album, makes people question their faith and potentially lash out in despair as demonstrated in the poignant song “Heresy”.

#4 The forth song, “March of the Pigs” is the hardest song on the album for me to understand. From listening to it countless times and discussing it with others, I now interpret it as Trent’s (and the album’s character) way of saying, “Fuck you society and conformity”. The pigs discussed in the song are people lining up with everyone else, conforming to the current society. Consumerism (“Feed/”Greed) and corruption (“lies”) are huge parts of the conforming society that the character rebels against. But only when people “take the skin and pull in back” (aka deshilding their eyes from the conformity) can they actually live life (“feel better”). Lyrics can be found here.

I also really enjoyed this video because it is so raw and filled with emotion. (Plus it has Trent in it so how could I not love it).

Same sort “question” as yesterday: What are your thoughts on the album and the concept? And more specifically, has your faith in something (god, deity, spirit, entity etc) wavered or completely disappeared because of hardships you had to face?



Filed under Industrial, NIN, Rock, The Downward Spiral

The Downward Spiral #1 (The Series I Have Been Dying to Write)

For anyone that is keeping track, this is my 50th post on this blog. As I said before, I made a rule that I couldn’t feature an artist twice before I got to this 50th post. And I did–no repeats. So now I am free to post whatever! Of course I will still feature new groups, but I have been dying to re-feature my favorite “group” of all time, Nine Inch Nails.

I am serious when I say that Nine Inch Nails changed my life–not just my taste in music but my life. This change mostly occurred from discovering the extremely powerful album The Downward Spiral. I argue that it is the best concept album in existence, but I might be a little bias. (If you have other contenders for that honor, please tell me about them!)

I knew I wanted to feature the entire album because each song is an essential part of the unfolding story, so featuring one song would not adequately describe the meaning and emotion behind the song. But I knew that no one would sit through an entire post about 14 songs. So over the next week I plan to discuss 1-3 songs in each post, detailing the overall concept of the album and how each song adds to the elaborate and deeply emotional story. I hope you tune in for all of them, or at least listen to some of them, since this album speaks to so many people on so many different levels. A word of warning though, this album is not a pop or even “normal” rock album. The Downward Spiral explores some of the deepest, most  unpleasant areas of the human psyche. However, it has helped me understand parts about myself that 8+ years of therapy could never do.


A little background before I get into the actual music (sorry! hang on a little longer, it will be worth it): The Downward Spiral was released in 1993 and was Nine Inch Nails’ third album. The main concept of the album is a man’s downward spiral of self-destruction. Yes, it seems unhappy and perhaps not even worth listening to, but believe me (from someone who has exprienced the lowest of low in her life) this song really resonates and actually helps one understand one’s self better.

#1. The first song, “Mr. Self Destruction,” introduces the listener to the main “character–a man that has many self destructive vices that are personified by “Mr. Self Destruction” Mr. SD is many different vices such as drugs (I’m the needle in your vein) and sex (I’m a whore). But Mr. SD also provides hatred, guilt, lies, addiction, and loneliness. Thus, Mr. SD is the man–the man is his worst enemy. One that he can never escape. One that controls him.

I picked a video with the lyrics since it is a little hard to understand Trent at first. But through the noise, comes this voice filled with so much emotion. Emotions of self-hatred, self-judgement. And who can truthfully state that these or similar thoughts haven’t clouded his or her head. How many can say they never have times when they felt inadequate and used something–alcohol, drugs, food, lack of food–to combat or dull those feelings of unworthiness. But, this behavior creates an endless cycle of guilt, judgement, and self doubt–a downward spiral.

#2. “Piggy” is the next song on the album. The song documents another step downward for the man. Although he was in a relationship, it ended in “broken bones” and him becoming increasingly alone. The man directs his anger at his former girlfriend, saying that finally he is alone now and no one can stop him, covering up his emotions of sadness and betrayal. This song is crucial in setting up his broken relationship with this women, a relationship that increases his descent.

The next post will feature 2 subsequent songs from the album. In the mean time, feel free to tell me your opinion on this album or other interpretations of the songs/album.



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