photo & text by nacrowe
i really believe that the capacity to appreciate and enjoy music is intertwined with the ability to have one's CONSCIOUSNESS expanded and altered. and not in some trivial psychedelic sense, but rather as a permanent EMOTIONAL marker in one's progression through life. case in point for me is the seminal NINE INCH NAILS' record THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL (NOTHING/INTERSCOPE, 1994), which honestly i did not get on any level the first ten or fifteen times i heard it as a young teenager. at that point i was not familiar with INDUSTRIAL or ELECTRONIC MUSIC and was still very much expecting traditional song structures and familiar sonic textures from rock music in general. this record was something entirely different.
its funny to me now but the track that really clicked for me is arguably the most EXPERIMENTAL and DEHUMANIZED on the record, that being "REPTILE" which is still arguably my favorite NINE INCH NAILS song period. with its repetitive, future robotic percussion and ABRASIVE and UNRELENTING slashing guitar-work, the song very much forwards the lyrical conceit of a ROMANTIC LOVE that both DEVOURS and ultimately CONTAMINATES the narrator of the song. it is a brutal song and the centerpiece of THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL record, which itself seems obsessed with calling into question the IMPURE motivations involved in ROMANTIC LOVE and HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS in general. although before it in the track-listing, i often felt that the antidote to NIHILISM of "REPTILE" was the relative SERENITY of "A WARM PLACE" which sonically attempts to mimic the emotions surrounding the hard-fought REHABILITATION of one's diminished sense of HUMANITY. it was those two songs that spoke to me as a teenager living in NIGERIA listening to it on tape as i experienced the DEPRAVITY and indiscriminate wonton PAIN on daily walking display living in a military dictatorship. this record was the soundtrack to my time seeing markets on fire (which happened when the police didnt get their regular bribes) and dead bodies on the side of the road.
i really feel that TRENT REZNOR was relaying something personally deeply DECAYED within his TORTURED PSYCHE when he wrote THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL, but for me attempting to make sense of the blatant CORRUPTION and heroic SURVIVALISM that i saw on a daily basis, this record in particular felt like an apt sonic projection of what i lived in real-time. it is definitely an emotional marker for me of not only a time in my life, but of what the concept of struggle itself feels like. whether that be UNREQUITED LOVE, DRUG ABUSE, living under a DESPOTIC GOVERNMENT or stinging personal MORAL FAILINGS. this record really gets to the heart of that feeling and wallows in it through tracks like "HURT," "MR. SELF DESTRUCT," "CLOSER," "PIGGY," "RUINER," "MARCH OF THE PIGS" and "I DO NOT WANT THIS." for me though, the emotional poles of this record show that somewhere between the INHUMANITY of "REPTILE" and the struggle for PURIFICATION of "A WARM PLACE" is the scope of human lived experience.
THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL is a seminal record that very much lives up to the hype. one of my favorite all-time records that is worth of further investigation. definitely worth checking out again.