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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.

Trent Reznor was barely in his 20s when Pretty Hate Machine surfaced, a result of his previous new wave band’s failure. Instead of carrying on with new wave, he ditched it for a constantly progressing derivative called “industrial”. At the time, industrial was limited mostly to German innovators and sparse North American interest hubs (such as Vancouver). Despite his age, he managed to do something none of his predecessors could: bring industrial music to a wider audience. Taking most of his influence from glam alternative such as David Bowie, new wavers Kraftwerk and Gary Numan, and mixing it with industrial legends like Skinny Puppy, Nine Inch Nails’ unique and overwhelming synthesizers compose the majority of their melodies.

Reznor did it all; songwriter, guitarist, keyboardist, singer, and incredible arranger. At times, Pretty Hate Machine shows its amateur creator’s technical faults, sounding as if it were just Reznor and his synth keyboard in his basement. Other times, it shows signs of what Nine Inch Nails would become: full of aggressive and violent anthems of teenage angst. While it may not be nearly as polished and ambient as their later efforts, Pretty Hate Machine is still a treat to listen to, even at its most empty and flawed. That may even be part of its charm.

Head Like a Hole” is, to this day, one of Nine Inch Nails’ biggest hits, and for good reason. It begins with the very Skinny Puppy-esque opening measures and turns into what will become a series of eerie and rich synth riffs, each one completely different and effective as the next. “Head Like a Hole” focuses on religion and money as society’s focal points–already touchy subjects–but is only a precursor to their following messages of anarchy, depression, and loss. “Terrible Lie,” about being left alone, has simply the best synth work on the whole album, emphasized by the quiet lyrics and a frank chorus repeating the title. The bridge after verses is particularly chilling, when Reznor cries: “Don’t tear away from me, I want you to hold onto.” This sense of reality has become his trademark; he does a wonderful job of bringing his listeners into his edgy moods.

Nine Inch Nails’ first and only rap is displayed on “Down In It,” a commercial single released first because of its accessible sound (at the time). Very reminiscent of Falco, its mixing (complete with the inclusion of various sound effects) is actually done quite well. However, the lyrics are redundant and is reduced to a catchy single when it ends with the children’s rhyme lyrics: “Rain, rain, go away. Come again another day.” “Sanctified” features Danny Lohner turning out one of the best Nine Inch Nails bass lines ever, with great percussion as well. The vocals are well done, and the guitar (done here by Richard Patrick, pre-Filter) blends nicely, even during a time when Nine Inch Nails rarely emphasized guitar-work. Reznor then slows down the pace of the album with the beautifully serene “Something I Can Never Have,” his shot at a straight ballad. The piano’s lulling rhythm suits the mood perfectly as Reznor grieves longingly of an impossible relationship. This is an excellent, extended lullaby (clocking in at nearly 6 minutes).

The latter half of Pretty Hate Machine revisits the more industrial sounds of “Head Like a Hole.” “Kinda I Want To” is a fast-pumping experimental that runs the gamut using numerous synth tracks. The next song, “Sin,” is well-known by Nine Inch Nails fans because it was released as its own single (or “Halo” as NIN releases are referred to), and remixed quite a few times. It is a superb industrial tune with a chant-along chorus of sorts. “Sin” sounds edgier, and closer to the ideal industrial standard thanks to the less-complimentary chord structure. “That’s What I Get” is another self-deprecating swoon song with minimal instrumental backup, but a particularly strong vocal performance by Reznor. “The Only Time” is quite possibly its antithesis. The groove and funk ode to sex dries the tears and makes you want to work it. While it can be a bit jarring at first, and–admit it, humorous as well–it still gets the job done. Reznor shows a remarkable power to completely lighten the mood and write a flamboyant masterpiece of psychedelic funk with a hint of new wave. The ambient “Ringfinger” closes out the album with style. Containing deep verses of devotion, Reznor walks the line of controversy and thoughtfulness, making reference to Christ to his own shortcomings. With a defiant tone, he sings, “if I was twice the man I could be, I’d still be half of what you need“. As per usual, the synth interlude is fantastic and Reznor’s stirring lyrics make “Ringfinger” a fitting ending.

Pretty Hate Machine is a perfect blend of early industrial synths and style (right down to the stage attire), with Reznor’s sharp approach at accessible writing. Musically, it is fresh and features inspired melodies as well as notable experimental work, such as “Kinda I Want To” and “Sin.” European (mostly German) and Canadian influences are prominent, but it is the pop appeal of the new wave boom that fuels the album’s success. In my opinion, it still stands as Nine Inch Nails best work. Before the heavy angst of Broken, and the conceptualization of their following albums, there was just the songwriting, a synth, and a voice full of pain. Pretty Hate Machine may be less attractive given the complex music industry of today, but in this case, less is more.

Five years, it’s been five years since the release of the last Nine Inch Nails’ album. After all this time after The Downward Spiral and the classic single, “Closer,” Trent Reznor finally releases a new NIN album. Complete with 2 CDs and one huge CD pullout booklet, the album doesn’t disappoint.

One thing you will find in this album is a constant reminder of how much life sucks. Constant words like decay, damaged, and void will lead you in a direction of pity, and self-deluded depression.

The amazing sounds, ambient or not, make this CD a true industrial masterpiece.

This album, does have one downfall, that isn’t that much of a big deal, but it does need to be mentioned. Unfortunately for this CD set, it doesn’t need to be a CD set. Most of the stuff on the second disk is just repeats of the stuff on the first. Sure they are different songs, but it is mostly the same stuff again. This isn’t a really bad thing, because the stuff on the first disk is very good.

Also, as you listen to the CD you will notice that only in one song does Trent refer to the word “we”. This would be in “We’re In This Together.” All of the other tracks on the CDs refer to “you” in the singular form. From high screams of intensity to low bows of soft comforting music, then have both going on at the same time, and you have have the picture of this new CD.

After hearing numerous CDs from them, The Downward Spiral, Pretty Hate Machine, and Broken, I can honestly say that The Fragile is the best of the them all.

A few songs stand out on the CD. The recently released single “Into the Void” stands out on the 2nd Disk along with a chopped up vocal-fest of “StarF*ckers,” Inc.. The first disk contains songs like “We’re in this Together” and “The Day the World Went Away.” All with the beauty of the everlasting gloom upon them.

If you do like Nine Inch Nails in the slightest then you need to pick up The Fragile, for 18 dollars you get 2CDs packed with awesome tracks from one of the best trend-setting bands in today’s music industry.

It is sad to say that the sales of this record have been slow to pick up since the albums release. When the CD debuted at number one on the charts late last year, everyone thought the best, but as it slipped further and further down the charts, the sales began to dry up. Trent, himself, has spoken about the current industry and the situation of his latest CD in an interview with CD Now.