EP: Broken
Artist: Nine Inch Nails
Label: Nothing Records (TVT/Interscope)
Year: 1992
Rating: 4/5
Summary: Harsh and abrasive antidote to Pretty Hate Machine.

To me, Broken feels like the true birth of Nine Inch Nails, after the false start of Pretty Hate Machine. This is where Trent Reznor introduces the remaining pieces of his style, such as beautifully grotesque sound collages, well sequenced samples of rock instruments, sudden endings, and atmospheric crescendos. (It also includes a trick that would later become one of Marilyn Manson's hallmarks: playing a loud snare drum on all the downbeats of a chorus.) Combined with his already established technique of juxtaposing quiet verses with loud choruses, his unique style is now finally complete.

Trent Reznor understandably overcompensates for the restrained nature of Pretty Hate Machine - in places, Broken is only slightly more rhythmic and melodic than bursts of noise. It also sounds a little rough around the edges, as he enthusiastically embraces his new style before he's had a chance to get comfortable writing in it.

If you want to hear only the very best of Nine Inch Nails's releases, you should probably skip this EP and go straight to the masterpiece that is Trent Reznor's magnum opus, The Downward Spiral. If, however, you want to hear the raw template of the aesthetic that would later be put to outstanding use in his more developed later work, then this is it: Broken is the intense sound of the angry; the rejected; the reluctant ex-Christian; someone trapped in Hell itself.