Mindfuck.

That word is all that needs to be said, but i'll keep talking anyway. As if The Downward Spiral itself wasn't tripped out and convention-bending enough, this huge gob of remixes somehow managed to manifest itself. Further Down the Spiral somehow manages to completely ignore what few musical boundaries were left in the original Spiral and drag everything from the original off into something wholly other..

Quite a few guest artists quietly came in to work on this album. Piggy (Nothing can stop me now) was actually produced by Rick Rubin and featured Dave Navarro (who supposedly also did some work on the Fragile) on guitar. All three of the amazing Eraser remixes (as well as part of The Downward Spiral (The Bottom)) were done by (swoon) Coil, working in Reznor's studio. (Coil, for the record, also did the "gave up" remix on Fixed.) Two tracks, at the heart of it all and the second part of the beauty of being numb were created by Aphex Twin and merely inspired by the Downward Spiral.

A thing to keep in mind is that the American and UK versions of this album are fairly different! Pessimistic's writeup above contains the american track list; here is the UK's:

  1. piggy: (nothing can stop me now)
  2. the art of self destruction, part one
  3. self destruction, part three
  4. heresy (version)
  5. the downward spiral (the bottom)
  6. hurt (live)
  7. at the Heart of it all
  8. ruiner (version)
  9. eraser (denial: realization)
  10. self destruction, final
If you only have one of the two versions, i just suggest you stop reading this and go download the mp3s of the tracks you're missing RIGHT NOW. For those of you who would rather just go through this vicariously, or can't decide which one of the two to buy on cd, here's a rather trivia-laden summary of the differences:
  • The cover art is slightly different-- both are of the same rope lying on the ground and coiled up into a spiral, but the american version is kind of zoomed in. Maybe this is meant to imply the american version is even further down into the spiral than the UK version? Maybe nobody cares?
  • Hurt. The UK FDTS features a really cool live version; the american has the "quiet" version. You'd rather have the live version. The quiet version is actually not a remix at all, but a radio version. It's not cut or edited or anything, except the static at the beginning is shorter. All they did was filter out the wierder stereo effects and some other odd production things that sounded great on CD but came out kind of shitty when broadcast over radio and/or flattened into mono. (Keep in mind that the american FDTS was meant to serve kind of in place of the single for "Hurt"; it was released at the same time that a whole bunch of promo singles (four tracks-- just the quiet and album versions, with and without the word "shit" edited out) were mailed out to radio stations to be dropped into rotation. Hence the presence of the radio version on FDTS, because it was meant to ride the same promotional wave..)
  • The american version has part two of Self Destruction; the UK version has part three. Part two is really, really interesting and mind-opening; part three is just kind of like "ok, here's another version we didn't use". Part two isn't quite missed though because most of its interesting moments are in Self Destruction, Final. Don't bother looking for part three unless you find it interesting to pick apart the process of how they decide to arrange the elements of a song..
  • The version remixes. If you decide to get the UK version, this would be why. The UK version has two very tripped remixes, of Heresy and Ruiner, labelled simply "version". The original music in both mixes is completely obliterated and hardcore replaced with, blinkingly enough, Trent Reznor's interpretation of Trance music!!
    (Keep in mind this CD was released a couple years before anybody knew what trance music was.)
  • The Beauty of Being Numb, which Aphex Twin was responsible for and which i love, is not on the UK version. This is just as well, since the track's purpose was to serve as a bridge between Self Destruction, Final and Erased, over, out, which doesn't work because:
  • Two of the three coil remixes of eraser were dropped from the UK version. If you get the american, you will find Eraser (polite) either bone-chilling or kind of boring and pointless. Erased, over, out, meanwhile, is pretty much a must-hear, although it's terribly wierd by most people's standards, and somewhat ambient, and very Coil. If you went back and put every single song created during The Downward Spiral era into one case, Erased, over, out would have to be the last song, the one song that ends and drowns and closes everything down.
If anyone is still hungry after all that, there's the japanese version of Further Down the Spiral which was exactly like the british version with a single track added. The bonus track was called Reptilian, and is unsurprisingly a remix of Reptile. Not too much new here, and some of the interesting bits are echoed in the Reptile remixes on the unbelievably nifty March of the Pigs singles that were released in the UK (Reptilian, A Violet Fluid and Underneath the Skin were all done by the same person), but Reptilian is still a damn cool song and it's still worth checking your favorite local illegal content provider to see if you can find it.

Album: Further Down the Spiral (V2)
Artist: Nine Inch Nails
Label: TVT/Interscope
Released: 1995
Summary: Gritty, screeching Nine Inch Nails that you can dance to.

The Downward Spiral was a phenomenal album of Dark Side of the Moon proportions. The problem with releasing such an amazing work was that there was very little that Nine Inch Nails could produce next that would avoid disappointment. With Further Down the Spiral, rather than create the next original album, they chose to release a whole album's worth of remixes from the last one, a rather rare concept that was also used by Pop Will Eat Itself in the same year.

This doesn't pretend to be like its predecessor; in a way, it actually sounds even louder, with fast breakbeats, throbbing sub-bass and plenty of loud clanging noises. There's one point where the music even stops for dramatic effect while a gritty noise is sped up and slowed down, then crashes its way back in again. This is what The Downward Spiral might sound like if it was a dance album remixed by Atari Teenage Riot (although the remixers actually include members of Coil and Nine Inch Nails themselves).

Further Down the Spiral seems more like an experiment than an album. It takes The Downward Spiral's depression and hate fuelled vocals, plus a handful of its guitar riffs, strips them from almost all of their original musical context and puts them amongst gritty, digitised noise, manic beats and industrial sounds. Everything sounds as if it has been compressed, distorted, reduced in resolution and sample frequency, dropped out of a tenth story window, dipped in acid and scratched with sandpaper. It is at once powerful enough to make it feel as if the screeching will cause permanent hearing damage, yet strangely compelling and even catchy in places.

At The Heart of It All was created entirely by Aphex Twin, which begs the question of what exactly it's doing on a Nine Inch Nails album. Then again, Aphex Twin always did seem to do his own thing and remixes never were his forte, so it's probably for the best that he included an original piece of music. It's dark, scary and would make the perfect compliment to H. R. Giger's artwork.

Curiously enough, Aphex Twin's contribution isn't the cut that sticks out the most. The Downward Spiral (The Bottom), after an amazingly depressing intro, launches into a surreal piece of music that sounds unlike anything you'd expect from Nine Inch Nails, the only recognisable artifact from the original song being the Mellotron riff. In my opinion, it would probably have been better off edited down to just the first minute and a half. Other than that, this album is pretty solid and consistent.

The reason I'm reviewing the UK version in particular is because it contains two very good dance tracks that aren't on the American release: Charlie Clouser's remixes of Heresy and Ruiner. In my opinion, these are easily worth sacrificing tracks like the short and rather pointless Eraser (Polite) and The Beauty of Being Numb, a good portion of which is merely another song played backwards.

There is very little else to compare this album to; its sound is vastly different from anything else I've heard. If it's an experiment in taking some existing music in a violent new direction, it sounds like it succeeded.

From Charlie Clouser's catchy tracks to the raw power of the Art of Self Destruction cuts, this is a rollercoaster of an album for anyone who likes music with screeching and clanging in it. While it's not as good as the album it's reconstituted from, it's an invigorating experience in its own right.

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