The Downward Spiral is the second studio album by American industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails, released March 8, 1994, on Interscope Records. It is aconcept album detailing the destruction of a man, from the beginning of his "downward spiral" to his attempt at suicideThe Downward Spiral features elements of industrial rock, techno, and heavy metal, in contrast to Nine Inch Nails' synthpop-influenced Pretty Hate Machine.

Co-produced by Trent Reznor and FloodThe Downward Spiral was conceived after the Lollapalooza 1991 festival tour as a pivot for Reznor's personal issues and the "negative vibe" felt by the band. Reznor moved to 10050 Cielo Drive, Benedict Canyon, Los Angeles in Beverly Hills, California the following year, where actress Sharon Tate was murdered by members of the Manson Family. It was used as a studio called "Le Pig" for recording Broken and The Downward Spiral with collabrations from other musicians. The album was influenced by late 1970s rock music albums, David Bowie's Low and Pink Floyd's The Wall in particular, and focused on texture and space, avoiding explicit usage of guitars or synthesizers.

The Downward Spiral was promoted with the Self Destruct Tour and four songs from the album ("March of the Pigs", "Closer", "Piggy", and "Hurt") became singles. The tour's concerts debuted the band's grungy and messy image and were violent and chaotic, with band members often injuring themselves and destroying their instruments. "March of the Pigs" and "Closer" were accompanied by music videos; the "March of the Pigs" video was shot twice and "Closer"'s was heavily censored. "Piggy" and "Hurt" were released as promotional singles.

A major commercial success, The Downward Spiral established Nine Inch Nails as a reputable force in the 1990s music scene, with its sound being widely imitated and Reznor receiving media hype and multiple honors while diverging into drug abuse and depression. It has been regarded by music critics and audiences as one of the most important albums of the 1990s and was praised for its abrasive, eclectic nature and dark themes, although it was scrutinized by social conservatives for its lyrics. A companion remix album, Further Down the Spiral, was released in 1995. To mark the album's tenth anniversary, The Downward Spiral was remastered and re-released on November 23, 2004 in high-resolution SACD and DualDisc formats.


 [hide*1 Writing and recording

Writing and recording[edit]Edit

[1]Adrian Belew's approach to guitar parts on the album improved Reznor's confidence in the instrument.

The Downward Spiral was conceived after the Lollapalooza festival tour as Trent Reznor thought of a "negative vibe" felt by the band when they were in a European hotel. Nine Inch Nails live performances were known for its aggressive on-stage dynamic, in which band members act angry, injure themselves, and destroy instruments. Reznor had a feud with TVT Records that resulted in him co-founding Nothing Records with his former manager John Malm, Jr. and signing with Interscope. He wanted to explore a fictional character whose life is psychologically wounded and developed a concept about the album's themes; he later used the concept as lyrics. The concept was based on Reznor's social issues at the time: he had personal conflicts with band member Richard Patrick and was known for enjoying alcohol.[1][2][3] When developing The Downward Spiral, Reznor struggled with drug addiction and was depressed as he wrote songs related to personal issues. His friends suggested that he could take Prozac (fluoxetine), an antidepressant, but this choice did not appeal to him.[4][5] He wanted the album's sound to diverge from Broken, emphasizing mood, texture, restraint and subtlety, although he was not sure about its musical direction.[6] The album was made with "full range" and focused on texture and space, avoiding explicit usage of guitars or synthesizers.[7]

Reznor searched for and moved to 10050 Cielo Drive in 1992 for recording Broken and The Downward Spiral,[8] a decision made against his initial choice to record the album in New Orleans.[9] 10050 Cielo Drive is referred to as the "Tate House" since Sharon Tate was murdered by members of the Manson Family in 1969; Reznor named the studio "Le Pig" after the message that was scrawled on the front door with Tate's blood by her murderers, and stayed there with Malm for 18 months. He called his first night in 10050 Cielo Drive "terrifying" because he already knew it and read books related to the incident. Reznor chose the Tate house to calibrate his engineering skills and the band bought a large console and two Studer machines as resources, a move that he believed was cheaper than renting.[10]The studio was also used for the recording of Marilyn Manson's debut album Portrait of an American Family, which Reznor co-produced. Marilyn Manson accepted Reznor's offer of signing a contract with Nothing Records.[11]

Reznor collaborated with former Jane's Addiction and Porno for Pyros drummer Stephen Perkins, progressive rock guitarist Adrian Belew, and Nine Inch Nails drummer Chris Vrenna.[6] Belew's first visit to the studio involved playing the guitar parts in "Mr. Self-Destruct", and he was told to play freely, think on reacting to melodies, concentrate on rhythm, and use noise. This approach improved Reznor's confidence in the instrument: he found it to be more expressive than the keyboard due to the interface.[12] Belew praised Reznor for his "command of technology," and commented that the music of Nine Inch Nails made innovations "that are in [his] realm."[13] Vrenna and Perkins played drum parts recorded live in the studio; the tracks were rendered into looped samples. Reznor took a similar approach to recording guitar parts: he would tape 20 to 25-minute long sessions of himself playing guitars on a hard disc recorder with the Studio Vision sequencer.[14]

Most of the music was recorded into a Macintosh computer using a board and manipulated with music editor programs on the computer. Unique effects such as analyzing and inverting the frequency were applied to the tracks to create original sounds. The band would "get an arrangement together" and convert it into analog tape.[15][14] Reznor sampled excerpts from guitar tracks and processed them to the point of randomness and expression.[16] Among the equipment Reznor used for recording the album are Pro ToolsDigidesign's TurboSynth, a Marshall rack head, the Prophet VS keyboard, and variousJackson and Gibson guitars.[13]

In December 1993, Reznor was confronted by Patti Tate, who asked if he was exploiting Sharon Tate's death in the house. Reznor responded that he was interested in the house as her death happened there. He later made a statement about this encounter during a 1997 interview with Rolling Stone:

While I was working on [The] Downward Spiral, I was living in the house where Sharon Tate was killed. Then one day I met her sister [Patti Tate]. It was a random thing, just a brief encounter. And she said: 'Are you exploiting my sister's death by living in her house?' For the first time, the whole thing kind of slapped me in the face. I said, 'No, it's just sort of my own interest in American folklore. I'm in this place where a weird part of history occurred.' I guess it never really struck me before, but it did then. She lost her sister from a senseless, ignorant situation that I don't want to support. When she was talking to me, I realized for the first time, 'What if it was my sister?' I thought, 'Fuck Charlie Manson.' I went home and cried that night. It made me see there's another side to things, you know?[17]

Flood, known for engineering and producing U2 and Depeche Mode albums, was employed as co-producer on The Downward Spiral. It became his last collaboration with Nine Inch Nails due to creative differences.[6] A "very dangerously self-destructive," humorous short song written for the album, "Just Do It," was not included in the final version and criticized by Flood in that Reznor had "gone too far." Reznor completed the last song written for the album, "Big Man with a Gun," in late 1993.[18][19] After the album's recording, Reznor moved out and the house was demolished shortly thereafter.[9] The Downward Spiral entered its mixing and mastering processes, done at Record Plant Studios and A&M Studios with Alan Moulder, who subsequently took on more extensive production duties for future album releases.[20][21]

Music and lyrics[edit]Edit

"Mr. Self Destruct"

MENU   0:00 Album version, as it appeared on The Downward Spiral---- "The Becoming" MENU   0:00 Album version, as it appeared on The Downward Spiral---- "Ruiner" MENU   0:00 Album version, as it appeared on The Downward Spiral----

Problems playing these files? See media help.

Numerous layers of metaphors are present throughout The Downward Spiral, which leaves it open to wide interpretation. The album relays nihilism and is defined by a prominent theme of self-abuse and control. It is a semi-autobiographical concept album in which the overarching plot follows the protagonist's (Reznor) descent into madness in his own inner solipsistic world, through a metaphorical "Downward Spiral", dealing with religion, dehumanization, violence, disease, society, drugs, sex, and finally suicide.[22][23][24] Reznor described the concept as consisting of "someone who sheds everything around them to a potential nothingness, but through career, religion, relationship, belief and so on."[8] Media journalists like The New York Times writer Jon Pareles noted the album's theme of angst had already been used by grunge bands like Nirvana, and that Nine Inch Nails' depiction was more generalized.[25]

The Downward Spiral features elements of industrial rock, techno, and heavy metal, a change from the synthpop-influenced Pretty Hate Machine. Reznor regularly uses noise and distortion in his song arrangements that do not follow verse–chorus form, and incorporates dissonance with chromatic melody or harmony (or both). The treatment of metal guitars in Broken is carried over to The Downward Spiral, which includes innovative techniques such as expanded song structures and unconventional time signatures.[26][23] The album features a wide range of textures and moods to illustrate the mental progress a central character.[18] Reznor's singing follows a similar pattern from beginning to end, frequently moving from whispers to screams.[27] These techniques are all used in the song "Hurt", which features a highly dissonant tritone played on guitar during the verses, a B5#11, emphasized when Reznor sings the eleventh note on the word "I" every time the B/E# dyad is played.[28]

"Mr. Self Destruct", a song about a powerful person, follows a build-up sampled from THX 1138 with an "industrial roar" and is accompanied by an audio loop of a pinion rotating. "The Becoming" expresses the state of being dead and Reznor's transformation into a non-human organism.[5][24] "Closer" concludes with a chromatic piano motif: The melody is debuted during the second verse of "Piggy" on organ, then reappears in power chords at Drop D tuning throughout the chorus of "Heresy", while an inverted (ascending) version is used throughout "A Warm Place", and then recurs in its original state for the final time on "The Downward Spiral".[29] The album was chiefly inspired by David Bowie's Low, an experimental rock album which Reznor related to on songwriting, mood, and structures, as well as progressive rock group Pink Floyd's The Wall.[30]

Cover art[edit]Edit

Committere, an installation featuring artwork and sketches for The Downward Spiral, "Closer" and "March of the Pigs" by Russell Mills was displayed at the Glasgow School of Art. Mills explained the ideas and materials that made up the painting (titled "Wound") that was used for the cover art:

I had been thinking about making works that dealt with layers, physically, materially and conceptually. I wanted to produce works that were about both exposure and revealing and at the same dealt with closure and covering. Given the nature of the lyrics and the power of the music I was working with, I felt justified in attempting to make works that alluded to the apparently contradictory imagery of pain and healing. I wanted to make beautiful surfaces that partially revealed the visceral rawness of open wounds beneath. The mixed media work 'Wound' was the first piece I tackled in this vein (no pun intended) and it became the cover of the album. It is made of plaster, acrylics, oils, rusted metals, insects, moths, blood (mine), wax, varnishes, and surgical bandaging on a wooden panel.[31]



"March of the Pigs" and "Closer" were released as singles; two other songs, "Hurt" and "Piggy", were issued to radio without a commercial single release.[32] "March of the Pigs" has an unusual meter, alternating three bars of 7/8 time with one of 8/8 (in effect, a 29/8 time signature), and has a BPM rate of 269.[5] The song's music video was directed by Peter Christopherson and was shot twice; the first version scrapped due to Reznor's involvement, and the released second version being a live performance.[33]

"Closer" features a heavily modified bass drum sample from the Iggy Pop song "Nightclubbing" from his album The Idiot.[34] Lyrically, it is a meditation on self-hatred and sexual obsession, but to Reznor's dismay, the song was widely misinterpreted as a lust anthem due to its chorus, which included the line "I wanna fuck you like an animal". The music video for "Closer" was directed by Mark Romanek and received frequent rotation on MTV, though the network heavily censored the original version, which they perceived to be too graphic.[35] The video shows events in a laboratory dealing with religion, sexuality, animal cruelty, politics, and terror; controversial imagery included a nude bald woman with a crucifix mask, a monkey tied to a cross, a pig's head spinning on a machine, a diagram of a vulva, Reznor wearing an S&M mask while swinging in shackles, and of him wearing a ball gag.[36] A radio edit that partially censored the song's explicit lyrics also received extensive airtime.[37] The video has since been made part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.[38]

"Piggy" uses "nothing can stop me now", a line that recurs in "Ruiner" and "Big Man with a Gun".[5] The frantic drumming on the song's outro is Reznor's only attempt at performing drums on the record, and one of the few "live" drum performances on the album. He had stated that the recording was from him testing the microphone setup in studio, but he liked the sound too much not to include it.[34] It was released as a promotional single in December 1994 and reached the Top 20 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart.[32]

Released in 1995, "Hurt" clearly includes references to self-harm and heroin addiction, although the overall meaning of the song is disputed.[39] Johnny Cash covered the song for American IV: The Man Comes Around. Its accompanying music video, featuring images from Cash's life and also directed by Mark Romanek, was named the best video of all time by NME.[40][41] British singer-songwriter Leona Lewis covered the song and included it on her first EP, Hurt: The EP. Her cover garnered a mixed response from music critics. Lewis Corner for Digital Spy was complimentary of Lewis' rock interpretation of the song as it displays the singer's "emotive tones" on which she sings in "spine-chilling" falsetto notes.[39]


See also: Self Destruct Tour[2]Reznor performing during the Self Destruct tour, circa 1994–1995

The Nine Inch Nails live band embarked on the Self Destruct tour in support of The Downward Spiral. Chris Vrenna and James Woolley performed drums and keyboards respectively, Robin Finck replaced Richard Patrick on guitar and bassist Danny Lohner was added to the line-up. The stage set-up consisted of dirty curtains which would pulled down and up for visuals shown during songs such as "Hurt". The back of the stage was littered with darker and standing lights, along with very little actual ones. The tour debuted the band's grungy and messy image in which they would come out in ragged clothes slathered in corn starch. The concerts were violent and chaotic, with band members often injuring themselves. They would frequently destroy their instruments at the end of concerts, attack each other, and stage-dive into the crowd.[42]

The tour included a set at Woodstock '94 broadcast on Pay-per-view and seen in as many as 24 million homes. The band being covered in mud was a result of pre-concert backstage play, contrary to the belief that it was an attention-grabbing ploy, thus making it difficult for Reznor to navigate the stage: Reznor pushed Lohner into the mud pit as the concert began and saw mud from his hair entering his eyes while performing. Nine Inch Nails was widely proclaimed to have "stolen the show" from its popular contemporaries, mostly classic rock bands, and its fan base expanded.[43][44][45] The band received considerable mainstream success thereafter, performing with significantly higher production values and the addition of various theatrical visual elements.[46] Its performance of "Happiness in Slavery" from the Woodstock concert earned the group a Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance in 1995.[1] Entertainment Weekly commented about the band's Woodstock '94 performance: "Reznor unstrings rock to its horrifying, melodramatic core--an experience as draining as it is exhilarating".[47] Despite this acclaim, Reznor attributed his dislike of the concert to its technical difficulties.[48]

The main leg of the tour featured Marilyn Manson as the supporting act, who featured bassist Jeordie White (then playing under the pseudonym "Twiggy Ramirez"); White later played bass with Nine Inch Nails from 2005 to 2007.[49] After another tour leg supporting the remix album Further Down the Spiral, Nine Inch Nails contributed to the Alternative Nation Festival in Australia and subsequently embarked on the Dissonance Tour, which included 26 separate performances with co-headliner David Bowie. Nine Inch Nails was the opening act for the tour, and its set transitioned into Bowie's set with joint performances of both bands' songs.[50] However, the crowds reportedly did not respond positively to the pairing due to their creative differences.[51]

The tour concluded with "Nights of Nothing", a three-night showcase of performances from Nothing Records bands Marilyn Manson, PrickMeat Beat Manifesto, and Pop Will Eat Itself, which ended with an 80-minute set from Nine Inch Nails. Kerrang! described the Nine Inch Nails set during the Nights of Nothing showcase as "tight, brash and dramatic", but was disappointed at the lack of new material. On the second of the three nights, Richard Patrick was briefly reunited with the band and contributed guitar to a performance of "Head Like a Hole".[52] After the Self Destruct tour, Chris Vrenna, member of the live band since 1988 and frequent contributor to Nine Inch Nails studio recordings, left the act permanently to pursue a career in producing and to form Tweaker.[53][54]

Release and reception[edit]Edit

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic [23]
Chicago Tribune [55]
Entertainment Weekly (B+)[56]
Los Angeles Times [57]
The New Rolling Stone Album Guide [58]
Pitchfork Media (8.3/10)[59]
PopMatters (9/10)[29]
Robert Christgau ()[60]
Rolling Stone [61]
USA Today [62]

The Downward Spiral's release date was delayed at various times to slow down Reznor's intended pace of the album's recording. The first delay caused the process of setting up Le Pig to take longer than he expected, and its release was postponed again as he was educating himself different ways to write songs that did not resemble those on Broken and Pretty Hate Machine. He considered delivering the album to Interscope in early 1993, only to experience a writer's block as he was unable to produce any satisfactory material. Interscope grew impatient and concerned with this progress, but Reznor was not forced by their demands of expediency despite crediting the label for giving him creative freedom. He told rock music producer Rick Rubin that his motivation for creating the album was to get it finished, thus Rubin responded that Reznor might not do so until he makes music that is allowed to be heard. Reznor realized that he was in the most fortunate situation he imagined when the album was recorded with a normal budget, "cool" equipment, and a studio to work at.[1]

Released on March 8, 1994 to instant success,[1] The Downward Spiral debuted the following week at number two on the US Billboard 200 chart,[63] and on October 28, 1998 the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified the album quadruple platinum, denoting shipments of four million in the United States.[64][65] The album peaked at number nine on the UK Albums Charts[66] and the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) gave the album a gold certification on July 22, 2013 for sales of over 100,000 copies in the United Kingdom.[67] It reached number 13 on the Canadian RPM album charts[68] and received a triple platinum certification from the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) for selling 300,000 copies in Canada.[69] A group of early listeners of the album viewed it as "commercial suicide," but Reznor did not make it for profit as his goal was to slightly broaden Nine Inch Nails' scope. Reznor felt that the finished product he delivered to Interscope was complete and faithful to his vision and thought its commercial potential was limited, but after its release he was surprised by the success and received questions about a follow-up single with a music video to be shown on MTV.[70] The album has since sold over four million copies worldwide.[71]

Many music critics and audiences praised The Downward Spiral for its abrasive, eclectic nature and dark themes and commented on the concept of a destruction of a man.[1] The New York Times writer Jon Pareles' review of the album found the music to be highly abrasive. Pareles asserted that unlike other electro-industrial groups like Ministry and Nitzer Ebb, "Reznor writes full-fledged tunes" with stronger use of melodies than riffs. He noticed criticisms of Nine Inch Nails from industrial purists for popularizing the genre and the album's transgression.[25] Robert Christgau gave the album an honorable mention () rating and commented that, musically, the album was comparable to "Heironymus Bosch as postindustrial atheist", but lyrically more closely resembled "Transformers as kiddie porn."[60] Jonathan Gold, writing for Rolling Stone, likened the album to cyberpunk fiction.[61] Entertainment Weekly reviewer Tom Sinclair commented: "Reznor's pet topics (sex, power, S&M, hatred, transcendence) are all here, wrapped in hooks that hit your psyche with the force of a blowtorch."[56]


The Downward Spiral has been listed on several publications' best album lists. In 2003, the album was ranked number 200 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time[72] and number 201 on its 2012 online edition. The Rolling Stone staff wrote: "Holing up in the one-time home of Manson-family victim Sharon Tate, Trent Reznor made an overpowering meditation on NIN's central theme: control."[73] The album was placed 10th on Spin'125 Best Albums of the Past 25 Years list; the Spin staff quoted Ann Powers' review that appreciated its bleak, aggressive style.[74] It was ranked number 488 in the book The Top 500 Heavy Metal Albums of All Time by heavy metal music critic Martin Popoff.[75] In 2001, Q named The Downward Spiral as one of the 50 Heaviest Albums of All Time;[76]in 2010, the album was ranked number 102 on their 250 Best Albums of Q's Lifetime (1986-2011) list.[77] The Downward Spiral was featured in Robert Dimery's book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[78] In May 2014, Loudwire placed The Downward Spiral at number two on its "10 Best Hard Rock Albums of 1994" list.[79] In July 2014, Guitar World placed The Downward Spiral at number 43 in their "Superunknown: 50 Iconic Albums That Defined 1994" list.[80]


The immediate success of The Downward Spiral established Nine Inch Nails as a reputable force in the 1990s. The band's image and musical style became highly recognizable that a Gatorade commercial featured a remix of "Down in It" without its involvement. Reznor felt uncomfortable with the media hype and success the band earned, received false reports of his death, depression, and relationship with mass murderer Jeffrey Dahmer, and was depicted as a sex icon due to his visual identity.[81] Nine Inch Nails received several honors, including Grammy Award nominations for Best Alternative Performancefor The Downward Spiral and Best Rock Song for "Hurt".[82] After the release of The Downward Spiral, many bands such as Gravity KillsStabbing WestwardFilterMötley Crüe, and Skinny Puppy made albums that imitated the sound of Nine Inch Nails.[83][84][85]

Reznor interpreted The Downward Spiral as an extension of himself that "became the truth fulfilling itself," as he experienced personal and social issues presented in the album after its release. He had already struggled with social anxiety disorder and depression and started his abuse of narcotics including cocaine while he went on an alcohol binge.[86] Around this time, his studio perfectionism,[87]struggles with addiction, and bouts of writer's block prolonged the production of The Fragile, and Reznor completed rehabilitation from drugs in 2001.[86][88]

One year after The Downward Spiral's release, Reznor produced an accompanying remix album entitled Further Down the Spiral, the only non-major Nine Inch Nails release to be certified gold in the United States.[64] It features contributions from Coil with Danny HydeJ. G. Thirlwell, electronic musician Aphex Twin, producer Rick Rubin, and Jane's Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro.[89] The album peaked at number 23 on the Billboard 200 and received mixed reviews.[90][91] Recoiled, a remix EP of "Gave Up", "Closer", "The Downward Spiral", and "Eraser" by Coil, was released on February 24, 2014 via British record label Cold Spring.[92]

Retrospective reviews regard The Downward Spiral as one of the most important albums of the 1990s and Reznor's greatest work. The 2004 edition of The New Rolling Stone Album Guide gave the album five out of five stars and called it "a powerful statement, and one of the landmark albums of the Nineties."[58] Writing for Entertainment Weekly, Kyle Anderson remembered watching the music video of "Closer" on MTV as an adolescent and expressed that the album changed his perception of popular music from that of songs heard on the radio to albums with cover art.[93] Stereogum's Tom Breihan remains favorable toward the album since it is "the one that most fully inhabits" Nine Inch Nails' characteristics and influenced youth culture, with teenagers wearing ripped fish nets on their arms.[85]


Its emphasis on transgressive themes made The Downward Spiral's lyrics vulnerable to criticism from American social conservatives. Senate Bob Dole, then head of the Republican Party, sharply denounced Time Warner after a meeting between Michael J. Fuchs (head of the Warner Music Group), William Bennett, and C. Delores Tucker, at which Tucker and Bennett demanded that Fuchs recite lyrics from "Big Man with a Gun" because they thought the song was an attack on the United States Government.[94] Interscope was blamed for releasing gangster rap albums by Dr. DreTupac Shakur, andSnoop Dogg that were deemed objectionable. Reznor called Tucker (who referred to Nine Inch Nails as a gangster rap act) "such a fucking idiot" and claimed "Big Man with a Gun" was a satire of the genre and was originally about madness. Reznor conceded The Downward Spiral could be "harmful, through implying and subliminally suggesting things," whereas hardcore hip hop can be "cartoonish."[2][95]Robert Bork also repeatedly referenced "Big Man with a Gun" in his book Slouching Toward Gomorrah as evidence of a cultural decline. The book incorrectly states that it is a rap song.[96]

Another form of the Downward Spiral... deeper & deeper it goes. to cuddle w. her, to be one w. her, to love; just laying there. I need a gun. This is a weird entry... I should feel happy, but shit brought me down.

“”Dylan Klebold from one of his journals two years before the shooting.


Before the Columbine High School massacre, one of the Columbine High School student mass murderers Dylan Klebold referenced lyrics from Nine Inch Nails multiple times in his journal. Klebold heavily identified with the protagonist of the album as a symbol of his own depression.[98][99] On May 4, 1999, a hearing on the marketing and distribution practices of violent content to minors by the television, music, film, and video game industries was conducted before the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.[100] The committee heard testimony from cultural observers, professors, and mental-health professionals that included conservative William Bennett and the Archbishop of Denver, Reverend Charles J. Chaput.[100]Participants criticized the album, Nine Inch Nails' label-mate Marilyn Manson, and the 1999 film The Matrix for their alleged contribution to the environment that made tragedies like Columbine possible.[100] The committee requested that the Federal Trade Commission and the United States Department of Justice investigate the entertainment industry's marketing practices to minors.[100][101]

In 2009, Apple rejected a proposal for a Nine Inch Nails iPhone application, citing objectionable content in The Downward Spiral. Days later, Apple reversed the decision but refused to explain its reasoning.[102]

Track listing[edit]Edit

All songs written and composed by Trent Reznor. 

No. Title Length
1. "Mr. Self Destruct[a]"   4:30
2. "Piggy"   4:24
3. "Heresy"   3:54
4. "March of the Pigs"   2:58
5. "Closer"   6:13
6. "Ruiner"   4:58
7. "The Becoming[b]"   5:31
8. "I Do Not Want This"   5:41
9. "Big Man with a Gun[c]"   1:36
10. "A Warm Place[d]"   3:22
11. "Eraser"   4:54
12. "Reptile[e]"   6:51
13. "The Downward Spiral"   3:57
14. "Hurt[f]"   6:13
Total length: 65:02
Deluxe Edition (Halo 8 DE)

To mark the album's tenth anniversary, The Downward Spiral was re-released on November 23, 2004 in high-resolution SACD and DualDisc formats. Disc one of the album's deluxe edition re-release is nearly identical to the original version; track anomalies such as sounds from previous tracks creeping up on start of tracks are fixed, and it includes a stereo and multi-channel SACD layer. The second bonus disc is a collection of remixes and b-sides and also includes a stereo SACD layer in addition to the Redbook CD layer. The last three tracks on the bonus disc are previously unreleased demo recordings from the original album.[108][109]

Bonus disc
No. Title Length
1. "Burn(from Natural Born Killers) 5:00
2. "Closer (Precursor)" (from "Closer to God") 7:16
3. "Piggy (Nothing Can Stop Me Now)" (from Further Down the Spiral) 4:03
4. "A Violet Fluid" (from "March of the Pigs") 1:04
5. "Dead Souls" (from The Crow) 4:53
6. "Hurt (Quiet)" (from Further Down the Spiral, US version) 5:08
7. "Closer to God" (from "Closer to God") 5:06
8. "All the Pigs, All Lined Up" (from "March of the Pigs") 7:26
9. "Memorabilia" (from "Closer to God") 7:22
10. "The Downward Spiral (The Bottom)" (from Further Down the Spiral) 7:32
11. "Ruiner (Demo)"   4:51
12. "Liar (Reptile Demo)"   6:57
13. "Heresy (Demo)"   4:00
Total length: 70:38
DualDisc (Halo 8 DVD-A)

The DualDisc edition of The Downward Spiral contains the same CD content on Side A as the Deluxe Edition, with a DVD-Audio layer on Side B. When played on DVD-Video players a Dolby Digital 5.1 multi-channel or Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo mix of The Downward Spiral can be selected, along with videos of "March of the Pigs", "Hurt" and an uncensored video of "Closer". There is also an interactive discography and an image gallery. High resolution 24-bit/48 kHz 5.1 Surround sound and stereo versions of The Downward Spiral can be played on a DVD-Audio player, allowing the user a similar high fidelity experience as the SACD layer of the Deluxe Edition. The DualDisc release does not contain the additional b-sides and demo tracks.[108][109][110]


  1. Jump up^ The opening sounds of "Mr. Self Destruct" are a sample from the film THX 1138 in which a man is being beaten by a prison guard.[24]
  2. Jump up^ The sample of screams that plays throughout "The Becoming" is from the film Robot Jox, when a giant robot falls on a crowd of spectators.[103]
  3. Jump up^ The sample at the beginning of "Big Man with a Gun" comes from a studio-altered recording of a porn star having an orgasm. According to the album booklet, this "sample" is titled "Steakhouse" and is credited to Tommy Lee.[21]
  4. Jump up^ Japanese pressings contain a cover of Joy Division song "Dead Souls", originally released on The Crow original soundtrack. This track is placed in between "Big Man with a Gun" and " A Warm Place".[104][105]
  5. Jump up^ The break in "Reptile" contains an audio sample (starting at 5:36) of a woman falling down a hill from the 1974 film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.[106]
  6. Jump up^ The first Australian pressing has track time errors. Affected tracks do not play at their beginnings when selected individually ("Big Man with a Gun" has the beginning of "A Warm Place" tacked on, likewise all the songs up to "Hurt" start 41 seconds earlier than they should. "Hurt" itself has 44 seconds of silence on the end as a result), however the disc plays and flows correctly as a whole.[107]


Credits from The Downward Spiral taken from liner notes.[21]

  • Trent Reznor – vocals, all instruments, drums (on "Piggy"), arranger, producer
  • Mark "Flood" Ellis – producer, hi-hat (on "Closer"), ARP 2600 synthesizer (on "The Becoming")
  • Chris Vrenna – drums (on "Hurt"), programming, sampling, additional drums (on "Burn")
  • Adrian Belew – texture generating guitar (on "Mr. Self Destruct"), ring mod guitar (on "The Becoming")
  • Danny Lohner – additional guitar (on "Big Man with a Gun")
  • Andy Kubiszewski – drums (on "The Downward Spiral")
  • Stephen Perkins – drum loops (on "I Do Not Want This")
  • Charlie Clouser – programming, continuity
  • John Aguto – engineer
  • Brian Pollack – engineer
  • Sean Beavan – mixing
  • Bill Kennedy – mixing
  • Alan Moulder – mixing
  • Tom Baker – mastering
  • Bob Ludwig – high-resolution mastering (reissue)
  • James Brown – 5.1 mix (reissue)
  • Neal Ferrazzani – assistance (reissue)
  • Russell Mills – paintings
  • David Buckland – photography
  • Gary Talpas – package
  • Rob Sheridan – package, additional photography (reissue)

Charts and certifications[edit]Edit

Album charts[edit]Edit

Charts (1994) Peak


Australia (ARIA)[111] 12
Canada (CANOE)[68] 13
New Zealand (RIANZ)[111] 23
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[111] 33
United Kingdom (OCC)[66] 9
United States (Billboard 200)[112] 2


Region Provider Certification Shipment Actual sales
Canada CRIA 3× Platinum[69] 300,000+
United Kingdom BPI Gold[67] 100,000+
United States RIAA 4× Platinum[64] 4,000,000+

Single charts[edit]Edit

Single Chart (1994) Peak position
"March of the Pigs" Australia (ARIA)[113] 98
Canada (CANOE)[84][114] 20
United Kingdom (OCC)[66] 45
US (US)[115] 59
"Closer" Australia (ARIA)[116] 3
Canada (CANOE)[84][114] 5
Denmark (DanishCharts)[117] 12
United Kingdom (OCC)[66] 25
US (BillboardHot 100)[115] 41
US (BillboardAlternative Songs)[32] 11
"Piggy" (promotional) US (BillboardAlternative Songs)[32] 20
Single Chart (1995) Peak position
"Hurt" (promotional) Canada (RPM Alternative Chart)[118] 8
US (BillboardHot 100)[115] 54[A]
US (BillboardAlternative Songs)[32] 8


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