Nine Inch Nails – The Fragile (1999)

It was a difficult time in Trent Reznor’s life. He had achieved some commercial success with The Downward Spiral in 1994. But, from the release of the album onwards, he became increasingly depressed and felt suicidal. He spent the next five years honing his craft onto this double-disc concept album, The Fragile. It was quite a while to do so. Some fans became impatient with this approach, and this affected sales, not selling as well as The Downward Spiral.

Despite all this, Trent Reznor made a truly great album here. It’s a double-disc concept album about attempting to rectify a bad time. The time making the record was not wasted. We can hear a huge array of interesting, unique and consistent sounds on offer. It finishes the nineties trilogy of primary releases by Trent Reznor of Broken, The Downward Spiral and this album, The Fragile.

Let’s observe this masterpiece, track by track.

We kick off with Somewhat Damaged. It’s a great listen, with a basic chugging riff, electronic sounds and pounding drums galore, along with Trent Reznor screaming. It blows away everything else at the time. It’s so unique and well done, a great way to start the record.

The next piece, The Day The World Went Away, is a very depressing sounding piece. There are no drums in it, making it sound unusual, for sure. It talks in a very dark sense about struggling to deal with emotional torment, not exactly easy listening, but great all the same.

The Frail is an understated solo piano piece with some atmospheric sounds at the end of it. It’s very sad sounding but is a welcome change with a variety of instrumentation in the album.

The Wretched continues in fashion the piano playing, leading into a proper song this time. It’s about the fragility of human existence with respect to doing the right thing. “Now, you’re one of us. The wretched,” sings Trent Reznor. His screaming returns in the chorus. Epic piece.

The next song, We’re In This Together, is a prolonged piece about being in a miserable situation with someone, and sharing that experience. It goes on for seven minutes or so but never lets up in terms of an interesting piece. It is so well done though, it sounds futuristic.

The follow-up, The Fragile is the title track and a sad love song discussing preventing a lady from falling apart. It sounds more so that Trent Reznor is falling apart emotionally here, but is excellent nonetheless.

Just Like You Imagined is not specifically that, but is a good instrumental that uses a great variety of sounds together for listening. Not bad a listen all the same.

Even Deeper explains emotional distress and has a great bassline to it. It’s a more subdued piece from Trent Reznor, but a good one which is rather catchy. It’s progressing the concept of this monster album very nicely.

Another instrumental, Pilgrimage, sounds like a disturbed pilgrimage at that. It’s a short and not as good as you’d think instrumental, but all the same, listenable.

The heavy metal inspired No, You Don’t with its repetitive and catchy riff is a good piece about comparing oneself to another person, “You think you have everything, but, no, you, don’t!” cries Trent Reznor in his typical sung/screaming complex. A good piece, with a twist at the end.

La Mer is a mostly solo piano piece with some beautiful French interpretations of Nine Inch Nails lyrics. It’s a great piece nonetheless, and one of the most beautiful and simultaneously depressing pieces that you can hear today. Mint.

The Great Below is by far one of the most depressing Nine Inch Nails pieces out there. It seemingly talks directly about suicide and negative issues, but it is well worth listening to. Disc one ends here.

Disc two kicks off with The Way Out Is Through and repeats the lyrics, “All I’ve undergone…I will keep on…” suggesting some hope in the dark music at hand. It features a wonderful array of vocalized sound effects that sound very much like something from a video game, brilliant indeed.

The follow up Into The Void reprises La Mer with the main melody, but is very weak a piece. It has Trent Reznor going from mumbling to screaming as the song progresses, which is a nice touch.

Where Is Everybody? is quite a good rhythmic and danceable piece, although as indicated already, Disc Two is not as good as Disc One. Still, it’s okay overall for the flow and concept of the overall album.

The Mark Has Been Made is the next piece, and it’s a sonic rich, yet dull instrumental. There is no great melody or memorable parts to it. Outside of the album, it falls flat. Fortunately, it fits well on the album.

The next song, Please, is much better. It has Trent Reznor screaming about urges in life and the way he feels about it. It’s the calm before the storm of the next piece.

The main hit single from the album Starfuckers, Inc. sounds awesome, catchy and quiet/loud. It’s an awesome piece, well worth listening to, having a cynical stab of the nature of being a rockstar. Brilliant.

Complication is a short instrumental, which is okay, but not out there fantastic. It ends with some warm bass like sounds, before entering into the next song.

I’m Looking Forward To Joining You, Finally is a very good piece, despite it sounding like a pseudo-suicide note by Trent Reznor. It’s revealing and we are glad that Trent Reznor battled on throughout whatever issues he may have had. A good effort.

The next piece, The Big Come Down, is about said subject. “The big come down, isn’t that what you wanted?” asks Trent Reznor. It’s a funky yet somewhat weak piece from our master of doom but fits in okay with the album.

Following up is essentially a remix which is called Underneath It All. It’s a very good remix of The Great Below. The outro is fantastic, featuring some very trippy vocals and finishes the piece nicely.

Ripe (With Decay) is the final piece on the second side of this album, which is the last piece on the whole album. It’s a picturesque instrumental and we come to the end of this very dark album.

Realistically speaking, this album is a better sonic journey than that album. There are many different sounds and layers to explore on it. If you really have had a bad day or experience and need some music to vent through, look no further.

9/10