Review: Nine Inch Nails – Broken

Broken was released in 1992 after a label change. What better way to give your previous label the proverbial screw-you? You fill an EP full of the most aggressive and angry songs imaginable, of course! Broken is an EP, but don’t let that fool you, it’s still one of Nine Inch Nails biggest releases simply because it contains entirely original material. (Most of their singles and releases are filled with remixes of earlier songs.) These eight songs compose their most guitar-heavy, angry work ever. Drifting a bit from the industrial style, Broken is significantly more metal than Pretty Hate Machine. It still has quite a few interesting synths in it, but they are now a backdrop to the frightening guitar of Robin Finck (later to go onto Guns N’ Roses briefly). These songs are violent, loud, and–at times–downright scary. Because of this, Broken is the most unique Nine Inch Nails release.

Pinion” opens the EP with simply an edgy guitar belching out a progressively louder broken harmony. When the volume reaches its loudest, “Wish” explodes with its percussion introduction. This song’s lyrics are particularly chilling, with Trent Reznor snapping: “No new tale to tell; 26 years on my way to Hell.” The apathetic and destructive nature of the song’s lyrics also assists its pulsating melody. Reznor yells his line with only the percussion backing him up, then the guitar booms, repeat. These extreme volume changes are unsettling at first, but grow on the listener. There’s no absence of noise in “Last,” however, powered by an extremely heavy guitar riff. “Last” is the pinnacle of anger on the EP, and its lyrics are the most shocking of all. Verses like, “Dress up this rotten carcass just to make it look alive,” and “I want you to throw me away” fuel the song’s self-deprecating and perhaps evil nature. “Last” is still a headbanger, and is still the overlooked classic of Broken. Not completely overlooked, though, as Godsmack did “cover” it on their debut album under the name “Time Bomb.”

Help Me I Am In Hell” is a creepy, little melody driven by nice guitar/bass tracks. It has no lyrics, and under two minutes in length, is largely forgettable after the novelty wears thin. “Happiness in Slavery” is a bizarre industrial song about–obviously–slavery. It features a great bass riff, and interesting synth work. Especially nice is the synth interlude after the verses, and the distorted voice of Reznor dubbing, sounding more disheveled than ever. “Gave Up” is a full-throttle ride for headbangers. It begins as a fragile Reznor whimpers over a fast percussion synth and develops into a complete anthem of apathy.

Once the listener figures out that tracks 7-97 are completely silent and there is indeed 8 songs, they are treated to the Adam Ant cover “Physical.” It’s quite a bit more slower than the rest of the album, but its steady rocking is a fun break from the anger. Wrapping up the album is “Suck,” Reznor’s last shove-off rocker. “Suck” has a nice bass riff, and intriguing verses of lost hope. The chorus is an explosion of guitars and yelling, which reminds of the intense volume shifting of “Wish.”

So, as the chorus in “Suck” goes, “How does it feel?” How does it feel to give the execs keeping you down the finger? If I were Reznor, I’d imagine it’d feel pretty good. Broken is short tour of the disturbing and angry world of Trent Reznor. Its brevity helps its cause, though, and the audience is left shaken and frightened simultaneously. Broken is not only a great EP, but an awesome look at how Nine Inch Nails progressed into The Downward Spiral. For Nine Inch Nails fans and metal fans as well, this is an excellent EP.

Written by Erich Becker
Thirty-something with a love of everything we cover here, and a few things we don't. Erich has run Entertainmentopia since the site's inception in 1999, countless redesigns, a few crashes, and a lot of media later, here you have it!