The Fragile

Originally published in Much Music on October 1, 1999

It's been 5 years since anyone heard so much as a peep from Nine Inch Nails and the tortured, enigmatic singer/mastermind, Trent Reznor.

Besides the visceral industrial/jungle-fied track called "The Perfect Drug" from the David Lynch Film "Lost Highway", but apart from that it?s been a near deafening silence. Reznor's missing presence has been felt in the new musical climate of easily digestible boy band pop-pabulum. Alternative music is no longer a movement or a force to be reckoned with and Reznor is entering a new arena. Nevertheless, the strength of his musical past has millions salivating on the thought of new music created by this solitary artist.

In 1988 under the moniker of Nine Inch Nails, Trent Reznor released the now industrial classic "Pretty Hate Machine" a revolutionary mix of vitriolic vocals, raging guitars, synthesized dance beats and industrial noise.

Thanks to the industrial dance single "Head Like A Hole," Nine Inch Nails gained some commercial footing and the song became a hit. Alongside bands like Ministry and Skinny Puppy, NIN were pioneering a caustic brand of music that was equal parts electronic as it was punk and heavy metal. The acrimonious sound was soon dubbed "industrial" by the media for its penchant of incorporating machine like sounds into the musical tapestry

Unlike most industrial bands of the time, NIN also incorporated pop melodies and hooks in their industrial attack. The band took some flak from it from the more dogmatic members of the genre.

1994?s double album classic "The Downward Spiral," further mined the depths of anguish and misery both lyrically and musically. "The Downward Spiral" broke NIN massively. They stole the show at Woodstock 1994. Covered in mud from head to toe, the band savagely attacked their instruments with one of the most talked about performances of the year.

Dubbed "The Fragile," the new album has to be one of the most eagerly anticipated albums in the last couple of years. "The Fragile" is worth the wait and musically is another tour de force. Characteristically, the album digs deep into the well of Reznor?s seemingly bottomless despair.

Somber, morose and yet moody and atmospheric, "The Fragile" finds NIN breaking out of the old habitual patterns they have created for themselves and exploring new musical territory. What hasn't changed is the dark mental torment. Emotionally, many of the same subjects are tackled; guilt, alienation, restlessness, and a pre-disposed inclination to mental pain.

It took over 3 years to create, but Reznor finally finished work on his latest opus, "The Fragile." Another double album, "The Fragile" features 17 songs and 6 instrumentals that run the gambit of emotions and moods. Reznor has used all his negative experiences and channeled them into song.

So now all the pain, frustration, disgust and reproach is on the table and it comes in the form of a industrial masterpiece called "The Fragile." 23 songs that are going to change the way people understand Nine Inch Nails. The rules are changed, the form is thrown out the window. Reznor has aimed to challenge his audience and once again has succeeded.

Transcribed by Keith Duemling

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