Home > Music > Nine Inch Nails – Broken (1992)

Nine Inch Nails – Broken (1992)


Sure, it’s technically an EP, but bands have released shorter full-lengths. Even with its two “hidden” tracks, this remains a concise, coherent release, historically notable for being NIN’s first big foray into rock/metal tropes, as well as a lot of deliberately provocative music video material. Seems to do the trick for me, anyways, but you know my tastes and probably aren’t shocked by this, OR by my totally novel and rad appraisal of Broken as dumping tons of distortion and abrasive noise into pop/rock compatible songwriting.

What can I say? I like distortion and abrasive noise, and therefore, Broken‘s aesthetics and production offer me a great opportunity to nerd out. The soundscape here is rather dense – the actual amount of elements at any one time isn’t so immense, but they cover the frequencies of the mix in a way that only large, terrifying sounds can. The guitars here are particularly notable, and legends (er, I mean Wikipedia) tell me Trent Reznor used a program called Turbosynth to convolute them in interesting ways. Good luck finding it for yourself, but it does kind of just come down to algorithms that could theoretically be reprogrammed as needed.

Every fool with a blog will probably agree with me that this work did much to popularize the nascent “industrial metal” scene, which to be fair was already quite real and vital, with bands like Godflesh, Ministry, Fear Factory already in the process of existing in the moment of 1992. Other things that came into existence in 1992 include your author, but I digress. On their debut, Nine Inch Nails’s songs relied heavily on electronic dance tropes, and that understandably continues here. Seems to me, though, that Broken adopts a great deal of rock “language” (Whatever that means) in order to amp up its sound, which makes for more dynamic and less ambient songs than those of Pretty Hate Machine. What’s particularly important, though, is that the previous songwriting ideas aren’t abandoned – while this EP emphasizes its ‘guitar’ and drums more, quite a bit of the EBM/electro-industrial ideas remain under the surface, particularly in the rhythms. As someone who will not and apparently can’t stop writing about bands in transition, this Jenga-like restructuring isn’t all that common, and a lot of other bands who try it tend to collapse in on themselves.

Given that NIN’s 1994 break-further-through (The Downward Spiral) saw further norming and sonic experimentation, I’m sure you won’t mind me labeling Broken the band’s high point. It’s a concise blast of aggression that still impresses me with its ferocity despite presumably being smooshed by the weight and brutality of my death metal repository.

Highlights: “Last”, “Happiness in Slavery”, “Suck”

P.S: Today is the 5th anniversary of Invisible Blog. I may or may not have some ruminations on this in the next few days.


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