Trent Reznor released what could be considered his ‘opus’ with Nine Inch Nails in 1994. The album is a hard-edged, ‘industrial’ album full of pounding beats, distorted guitars and Reznor screaming blue murder. It opens with Mr Self Destruct which follows this template to the letter, and is followed by the much quieter Piggy, a creepy, almost whispered track with Reznor singing profundities such as “nothing can stop me now cos I don’t care anymore”.
Heresy is much dancier and more electronic though it still allows for Reznor to scream “your God is dead! And no one cares!”, which actually sounds awesome. After the equally pounding March of the Pigs the intensity reduces slightly for the slow-grind of Closer. It opens with a squelching beat, possible lifted from Iggy Pop’s Nightclubbing and most of the track consists of this plus bass and a great vocal from Reznor, dialing up the tension as he sings “I wanna f**k you like an animal”. It’s a wonderful exercise in creeping tension while all the while remaining melodic and danceable.
Ruiner and The Becoming which follow this track sound suitably foreboding and dramatic. It’s not all screaming intensity. A Warm Place is a moment of keyboard-led tranquility, while final track Hurt is the creeping ballad which provided such potent material for Johnny Cash in his final years.
Possibly the Queen Is Dead of industrial thrash, it’s probably the definitive Nine Inch Nails album, and a thrilling ride.