Nine Inch Nail’s Early Career: A Closer Look

Written by on November 22, 2023

American Industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails was formed in 1988 in Cleveland, Ohio. Trent Reznor, the band’s only consistent member, started the band while working in a recording studio. NIN’s debut album, Pretty Hate Machine, coming out in 1989, permeated pounding industrial noise into the ears of Gen-X delinquents and outcasts, along with bands like Ministry and Skinny Puppy. Following suit with 1992’s Broken EP and 1994’s The Downward Spiral, Nine Inch Nail’s early work solidified their spot as rock legends.

“Head Like A Hole” courtesy of Youtube

“Head Like A Hole”: An Initiation to the Masses

The second single of 1989’s Pretty Hate Machine enjoyed widespread success, eventually reaching number 9 on Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart. I chose to speak about this song instead of the first single, “Down In It,” simply because I believe it had more cultural influence. I have heard this song play at the gym, and for good reason! “Head Like A Hole” is the song that got most people into NIN in the ’90s, with Reznor’s enraged delivery and funky synths.

“Wish” courtesy of Youtube

“Wish”: Breaking Into Critical Acclaim

Released in 1992 as a promotional single for the Broken, “Wish” received a Grammy for Best Metal Performance of 1993. Perhaps more sophisticated and reaching deeper than the previous single, NIN began to make a name for themselves. “Wish” is catchier but maintains the grittiness NIN is known for. I must bring up the Broken Movie, a 20-minute-long banned short film accompanied by the sounds of the Broken.

“Closer” courtesy of Youtube

“Closer”: Spiraling into Celebrity

In 1994, Nine Inch Nails released the iconic album The Downward Spiral. With a groovy distorted bassline, punching beats, and Reznor’s erotic lyricism, “Closer” captured the attention of freaks far and wide. Infamously, NIN, coated in mud, performed at Woodstock ’94. The release of their second studio album and their filthy Woodstock appointed Nine Inch Nails as prominent figures beyond the niche genre of industrial music.

Courtesy of Joseph Cultice

Closing Thoughts

Nine Inch Nails is one of my favorite bands. Their first three albums were made during a socially and personally turbulent time, which points to the genius of mastermind Trent Reznor. Although the music is “old” to some, it remains relevant and inspires artists such as Deftones, Tool, Aphex Twin, Grimes, and Death Grips. Nine Inch Nail’s influence is far-reaching, and Trent Reznor is rightfully regarded as a sonic genius.

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