Judging By Song Titles, Nine Inch Nails Still On Downward Spiral

The upcoming Nine Inch Nails album, The Fragile, is rife with the kind of enigmatic, morose titles on which the industrial-rock band has built its career.

Among the songs slated for the 23-track album, due September 21, are “Somewhat Damaged,” “The Wretched,” “The Great Below,” “Into the Void,” “Ripe (With Decay)” and the new single, “We’re In This Together”, according to the band’s official website.

Frontman Trent Reznor, in a written statement, described the album, which clocks in at more than 100 minutes, as a chronicle of “systems failing and things sort of falling apart.”

“In keeping with the idea of making everything sound a little broken,” Reznor continued, “I chose stringed instruments because they’re imperfect by nature. Although it may not sound like it, most of the album is actually guitar — and that includes the orchestral sounds and weird melodic lines.”

Reznor said he is not adept at playing such instruments as ukulele or slide guitar, but “we
were able to get some really interesting sounds [out of them] by making the studio the main instrument.” Among the other stringed instruments on the album are violin, cello and upright bass.

On previous records, NIN’s sound was marked by heavy blasts of distorted guitar, programmed drums and keyboards. Reznor experimented with stringed instruments on the 1997 single “The Perfect Drug” from the “Lost Highway” soundtrack. That song featured what sounded like frantically plucked violin strings over a skittering jungle beat.

The set, which will comprise two CDs or three vinyl records, was produced by Reznor and engineer/mixer Alan Moulder at Reznor’s New Orleans studio over the past two years.

“I wanted to try new things, fully utilizing the studio while putting more effort into melody and structure,” Reznor said. “Instead of trying to analyze what I was creating, I just let it flow to see where it went. It was all about not being afraid and it felt very liberating.”

The
album features the work of NIN keyboardist/drummer Charlie Clouser and guitarist Danny Lohner as well as former King Crimson guitarist Adrian Belew (who also lent a hand on NIN’s most recent album of new material, 1994′s “The Downward Spiral”), Helmet guitarist Page Hamilton, Ministry drummer Bill Rieflin, former Chic/Powerstation drummer Tony Thompson and keyboardist Mike Garson, who has played with the Smashing Pumpkins and David Bowie.

The Fragile will be NIN’s third studio album. In addition to their 1989 debut, “Pretty Hate Machine,” which featured the alternative hit “Head Like a Hole” and “The Downward Spiral,” NIN have released a number of remix projects, including 1992′s “Broken” and “Fixed” EPs and 1995′s “Further Down the Spiral.”

The tracks range in length from the one minute and 54 seconds of “The Frail” to the single “We’re in This Together,” a seven-minute-plus cathartic pop song with somewhat hopeful lyrics over a plodding hip-hop beat, walls of distorted guitars
and an eerie slasher-film cricket sound.

“We’re in This Together,” which premiered on rock radio stations on Friday (Aug. 27), finds the normally dark band in a surprisingly upbeat mood.

“We’re in this together now/ None of them can stop us now/ We’ll make it through somehow,” Reznor sings in the chorus as an army of fuzzed-out guitars rises behind him. It even sounds like a love song as he sings, “As lost as I get I will find you/ In the deepest part of the world I will find you.”

“We’re in This Together” is not the first song to be released from “The Fragile.” In July, NIN released a three-track single that included two versions of “The Day the World Went Away” and the cynical, edgy hard-rocker “Starf***ers, Inc.

The full track listing for “The Fragile”:

Disc one:

  • Somewhat Damaged
  • The Day the World Went Away
  • The Frail
  • The Wretched
  • We’re in This Together
  • The Fragile
  • Just Like You Imagined
  • Even Deeper
  • Pilgrimage
  • No, You
    Don’t
  • La Mer
  • The Great Below

Disc two:

  • The Way Out Is Through
  • Into the Void
  • Where Is Everybody?
  • The Mark Has Been Made
  • Please,
  • Starf***ers
  • Complication
  • I’m Looking Forward to Joining You, Finally
  • The Big Come Down
  • Underneath It All
  • Ripe (With Decay)
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