This EP from Nine Inch Nails distances itself from the synth sound found on their debut. The electronic music found on their first album is replaced with hard guitars and elements from industrial music. The aggression and hatred found on this record most likely stems from Reznor’s dispute with his then record label TVT. He channeled all that energy and put it into a record that repeatedly punches you in the face with its brutality.
The EP opens with the short, but sweet track “Pinion.” There’s nothing much to this instrumental, but it’s cool how it gradually builds up from where you can’t hear it to the point where you can’t miss it. The song is nothing but short guitar chords playing throughout, but it still makes an impression. The next track is the fan favorite “Wish.” It starts out with weird noises in the beginning, which almost sound like someone breathing or screaming. It’s this song that introduces the listener to NIN’s new abrasive sound. This track oozes with energy and hatred. You can really hear it in the hard guitar riffs and the lyrics: “Don’t think you’re having all the fun/You know me I hate everyone!” The song is a powerhouse that fans still love today.
Probably the best, hardest, and most intense track on the EP is “Happiness in Slavery.” It begins without warning with Reznor yelling “Slave screams!” The music seems to be the most complex here as there are so many sounds and elements happening it’s hard to catch them all in one sitting. Not only are the hard, aggressive riffs here, there are also a lot of mechanical sounds going on which really gives it an industrial feel. This makes the song kind of cold, which matches the tone of the track. This is one intense track that will blow your mind.
While all the songs on the album are killer there is one song that isn’t as good as the others. “Gave Up” is the closing track on the EP and it’s not terrible or anything, but the later version of the song featuring Marilyn Manson is much better. The music in both versions is still aggressive and harsh, but the vocals are different on this version. The voice is distorted, like it’s being sung through a computer and while it gives off a creepy vibe it’s just weird. There’s also a lot of chaotic noise where the song just loses control at the end. The later version makes more of a presence. The sound is bigger and louder. Plus, you can really hear and feel the frustration running through the song. That feeling is missing on the version found here.
As mentioned before, the sound is a big shift in a different direction when compared to Pretty Hate Machine. The first album was filled with electronic inspired sounds and predominately featured the use of synth. The songs also seemed like something you could easily move to. Here, all the electronic music is replaced with abrasive guitars and a much more harder overall sound. There’s also more of a groove found here thanks to the smooth bass riffs and while they’ll make you move, it’s not exactly something you can dance to. The sound also seems to borrow more from industrial music. Not only is it harsh, but there are a lot of mechanical elements at play in the songs. It’s as if this album was hinting to listeners to the new direction NIN would go to.
Overall, the album gets 9/10. Every song on here is massive. They’ll blow your mind and make you get up and start headbanging. While the sound is completely different than what was found on their first album, it doesn’t take away from the awesomeness of this record. This may be the hardest and most aggressive NIN album to date. While the sound would inspire their best selling album The Downward Spiral, it wouldn’t be as in your face due to the variety of songs. It’s a pretty short record that will leaving you wanting more.
What are your thoughts on the album? Do you have a favorite track? Do you like the harder sound here? Let me know in the comments!