February 21, 2005

Nine Inch Nails "The Downward Spiral" (Deluxe Edition)

The Downward Spiral is rightfully considered a masterpiece. It's a very hard, very dark and downright abrasive record; it takes no prisoners, it leaves no room for sentimentality and it destroys everything in its wake. Though Trent Reznor and company give no consession to happiness or positivity, a case could be made that object darkness and negativity does deliver a glimmer of hope; based somewhat upon the adage "it's darkest before dawn," part of the reason that people are drawn to dark, depressing music is that it makes them feel better to know that their own dark feelings are natural and that others have experienced it, too. Like a good friend, this bleakness is a source of comfort for those in need.

It is absolutely no surprise, then, that The Downward Spiral received the deluxe remix, remaster and repackage treatment. Though it already sounded excellent, the Dolby 5.1 remix makes it sound much bigger, much wider and much deeper than before. The tortured man introduction of "Mr. Self-Destruct" sounds much clearer than ever before, and, of course, you'll shudder when you hear it. Songs that were considered amazing before are now even more so. The sexy, Prince-like funk of "Closer To God" strikes an even sexier groove now; the rage of "Heretic" will leave you feeling as if you've committed a mortal sin; the pain and pathos of "Hurt" resonates deeper into your soul. (The song is made even more powerful when you consider how it served as an epitaph to both Johnny Cash's musical career and life.)

Of course, the main attraction for this upgraded album is the second disc, a loaded, potent album of "remixes, b-sides, demos, and non-album tracks." Unlike other records in this series, there are absolutely no liner notes, and there's no description given for any of the songs on the second disc, other than three songs being labelled as "demo." As frustrating as that might be, it's a moot point, because this disc not only stands on its own, it's an amazing counterpart to The Downward Spiral. And oh, how amazing it is! Unleashing a potent sexuality that was only hinted at on the finished album, Trent Reznor and company deliver a non-stop industrial erotic cabaret. "Closer To God" appears twice; once as a dark, atmospheric demo that's devoid of the beat and much more jazz-minded, and a second, more funked up and even more erotic than the final version. It ends with a blast of noise that will make you reailze that there is indeed a connection between Nine Inch Nails and latter-day practitioners such as LCD Soundsystem and Black Dice.

As far as classic albums go, The Downward Spiral is most definitely a classic. You might not dig Reznor's moods; his anger and despair might be a little too much, but for this album, it worked perfectly. The additional disc proves that the genius was no mere fluke, and that Reznor is a master manipulator of sound and emotion.

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.nin.com
Label Website: http://www.nothingrecords.com

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