The Downward Spiral was released on this day (March 8) in 1994.
This week we are looking at the 25th anniversary of Nine Inch Nails' legendary second album. The Downward Spiral was noted by critics for its strong departure from their debut when it was released on Nothing Records and Interscope Records, and they've never released another album quite like it.
Nine Inch Nails - The Downward Spiral
After their synth-pop based 1989 debut Pretty Hate Machine, The Downward Spiral was a surprising change in sound. This was a scuzzier, gritty record with more elements of industrial rock and metal. There was almost something less polished about it, but it did its job in propelling Nine Inch Nails to international stardom.
Produced by frontman Trent Reznor and Flood (Nick Cave, Depeche Mode, U2), the album was influenced by David Bowie's 1977 record Low and Pink Floyd's 1979 album The Wall. Much of the album was recorded in the house where Sharon Tate was murdered by the Manson Family, just before it was eventually demolished.
The Downward Spiral is as lyrically dark and often disturbing as the circumstances of its recording. Notable tracks on the record are March of the Pigs and Closer; the latter of which features a bass drum sample from Iggy Pop's Nightclubbing and is widely misconstrued to be a song about lust, while actually being about self-hatred and obsession.
It also features the song Hurt; possibly one of the most depressing songs in the world which would later be covered by Johnny Cash for his album American IV: The Man Comes Around. While Reznor was initially uncertain about the cover, he fell in love with Cash's video which was directed by NIN collaborator Mark Romanek and won the Grammy for Best Short Form Music Video. The Nine Inch Nails version was also nominated for a Grammy for Best Rock Song.
Of course, the lyrical content of such songs as Hurt was a controversial aspect of the record, though one of the biggest controversies about this album was the frequent lyrical references in the journal entries of Dylan Klebold; one of the perpetrators of the Columbine High School massacre.
The Downward Spiral reached number two in the US charts and remains the band's highest selling album with 3.7 million sold domestically. It's certainly one of the most impressive bodies of work from Trent Reznor, as well as one of the most iconic albums of the nineties.