• The Downward Spiral Review - "Nothing can stop me now!"

    Jan 29 2009, 22h16

    The Downward Spiral

    Everything written here is my own interpretation of the album. I am reviewing this album like it were a story book and is in no way set in stone in terms of what the lyrics mean. Enjoy.

    Mr. Self Destruct:
    The album opens to a loud mechanical track which introduces you to the part of the album’s protagonist that he calls (ATM anyway) Mr. Self Destruct. The fuzzy aggressive voice constantly reminds us that he is the one in control: “I am the silencing machine – and I control you / I am the end of all your dreams” giving the listener an idea of what is to come later on. About half way through we are treated to a break from the industrial thumping and given a quiet ambient snippet where Mr. Self Destruct whispers mockingly about how the protagonist has let this happen to himself – an idea that he tries to ignore throughout the album but remains apparent in the back of his mind. The music gets more and more out of control and the downward spiral begins.

    First we were given the aptly titled self destructive side of the protagonist (form here on referred to as Mr. Self Destruct) and now Trent is showing us the man who is tortured by his other half and pushed down the spiral - a man who I like to call Pig. Pig has had enough of being one of the slobbering masses and has convinced himself that Mr. Self-Destruct will free him, allowing him to do as he wishes. “Nothing can stop me now” – A line that recurs throughout is Pig trying to reassure himself, as is shown by his repetition of the line throughout this particular number. The music of this song is very mellow in comparison to most of the rest of the album which shows how Pig is trying to calm himself but his voice gets more and more strained as this is clearly failing.

    Now I am trying to give my interpretations of the ‘story’ of this album and how each song is something to do with its characters, so I’m going to ignore Trent’s personal message in this song and infact any of these songs. Pig has picked himself a target to be mad at (rather than himself who is to blame for his mental breakdown) – religion. He sees religion as a lie that has fooled the pigs or “flock of sheep” as he calls them in this song and backs up his claims with the “atrocities done in his, [God’s], name”. The mechanical industrial music is back showing that Mr. Self Destruct is very much influencing Pig at this time and putting these thoughts in to his head.

    March of the Pigs:
    A hectic song that sounds like a call to battle. Pig envisions himself as the man in charge of the “flock of sheep” rather than a false God. This is the first song where Trent uses a form of sexual innuendo: “Take the skin and peel it back” allowing the listener to learn of Pig’s want for sexual gratification and female company – he is a very lonely man. It may also be considered that Pig finds something sexually appealing at being in control.
    “ The pigs have won tonight
    Now they can all sleep soundly
    And everything is all right”
    Pig wants to be a superhero who saves the day and wishes to make everything all right. The loud and bustling music has gone once these lyrics were sung, signifying Pig’s genuine want, rather than one influenced by Mr. Self-Destruct.

    Pig is still feeling very lonely, but is obviously a very confused man. He has an animalistic lust he is trying to detach himself from his human side: “Help me get away from myself”. He wants to rid himself of all his negative feelings and really is crying for help “Help me!”.
    Another idea which I’m considering is that the yelling voices are Mr. Self-Destruct who is fucking Pig who just wants “to become somebody else”. Mr. SD is raping Pig’s mind and fully corrupting it.
    The jury is still out on this one to chuck a clique in when I can’t come up with any decent analysis but the repetitive music can definitely be defined as ‘thrusting’.
    Bollocks, I’m going with my first answer, Pig is lonely and in need for help. He’s trying to dehumanise himself and is becoming more and more like an animal. Mr. SD is thriving at this point and encourages his dehumanisation, now he can begin the ruining process.

    “The Ruiner's got a lot to prove he's got nothing to lose and now he made you believe
    The Ruiner's your only friend well he's the living end to the cattle he deceives”
    Mr. Self-Destruct has exposed him self as the Ruiner. He’s taking over now leaving Pig unable to do anything but question how Ruiner has gotten so strong. More sexual innuendo with “How’d you get so hard … so long” etc – a “high he can’t sustain” … anything? Erected penises are high?
    Anyway the music contains a nice little guitar solo that reflects Pig’s anguish and fades into a loud industrial thumping showing just how strong Mr. SD/Ruiner has become.
    Mockingly Ruiner is using Pig’s own catchphrase against him “Nothing can stop me now” because now he has taken full control.

    The Becoming:
    The downward spiral has reached mid-point and Pig is transforming or becoming into an abomination. Ruiner is using Pig’s voice: “I beat my machine it's a part of me it's inside of me”. The machine refers to the Ruiner of course because of the machine like noises.

    “The me that you know used to have feelings
    But the blood has stopped pumping and he's left to decay
    The me that you know is now made up of wires”

    This speaks for itself really and supports my point.
    The music becomes calm with an almost euphoric ‘ahhhhh’ is given, but don’t be fooled this is not Pig, its Ruiner enjoying his control; the screams at the beginning are still there just quiet and surpressed. Pig is still in there and is in incredible agony:
    ”It won't give up it wants me dead / Goddamn this noise inside my head”.
    He has realised Ruiner’s true motives.
    He does not want what Ruiner has in plan for him and it slowly fades into a song based on this idea

    I Do Not Want This:
    Pig is beginning to rebel against his new master. He thinks back to what he wanted “I want to know everything
    “I want to be everywhere
    I want to fuck everyone in the world
    I want to do something that matters”
    He is sick of Ruiner telling him how he feels. “Don’t tell me that you care” He knows the Ruiner doesn’t care for him and he isn’t going to make it all better. The problem with all this is that The Becoming has already happened: Pig is trapped by the Ruiner. The music mirrors the torment of Pig’s mind with its grinding heavy distorted sound, sounds as if he is wading through sludge. Pig gets desperate towards the end and screams what he wants! Sadly Ruiner steps in again and gives him something to do that will make him matter: a gun.

    A Big Man With A Gun:
    Pig is fucking angry and his mind is racing as the music suggests. Pig thinks he’s in control and is asserting his power on innocent people, but really Ruiner is pulling the strings and is just sitting back laughing. Sexual references are rife throughout as Pig finds a victim who he forces into sex with his gun. The song is over before you know it as Pig returns, shoots up some heroin and realises what he’s done. Once again Pig uses the line “Nothing can stop me now” but really it is Ruiner showing off his own power.

    A Warm Place:
    Pig sits back and thinks of what he is becoming, this is a major turning point in his life as he knows that Ruiner needs to be stopped. But all of that can wait as he hides in his warm place from the Ruiner. As you will notice there are no mechanical noises in this track due to the absence of Ruiner. There is apparently a barely audible voice at the beginning which states: “The best thing about life / Is knowing you put it together”
    Pig knows that he is solely responsible for his actions. A Warm Place fades into Eraser as Pig comes down from his high and Ruiner returns.

    The loud drums mark Ruiner’s return and Pig is once again in agony.
    “Need you Dream you, Find you, Taste you, Fuck you, Use you, Scar you, Break you”
    The Ruiner says this to Pig as a kind of manifesto. Ruiner is very calm and confident. Pig is very angry.
    “Lose me, Hate me, Smash me, Erase me, KILL ME”
    He is saying what Ruiner has done to him and what he will do. Pig is begging for it all to end, he has harmed himself a lot but even worse he has harmed others (Big man with a Gun) and knows that it all needs to end.

    Pig runs away again and finds himself with another lost soul, who I think is a prostitute (“Seeds from a thousand lovers drip down from within”). Ruiner seems to like her, I don’t think its Pig talking because he’s still trying to work out a way to end all his torment, possibly he’s once again trying to find it in sex. This contains some of the most angsty lyrics I’ve ever heard, I’m sure 13 year olds everywhere are weak at the knees: ”Angels bleed from the tainted touch of my caress” That is definitely Ruiner bigging himself up.
    By this point in the song you can hear insects crawling out of the girl that Ruiner has tainted with his caress. The only line I think Pig has is “Need to contaminate to alleviate this LONLINESS” as it is shouted, possibly through Ruiner.
    About a minute and a half before the end we hear the girl sobbing and we wonder what the hell he’s doing to her, but our prime concern is Pig.

    The Downward Spiral:
    Well, here we are, the end of the line. With Ruiner distracted by Reptile Pig is able to take over long enough to kill himself before Ruiner can hurt any others. I imagine this to be an incredibly slow motion death from when the bullet enters to the moment he dies. We get the thoughts of Ruiner just as the protagonist is dying:
    “He couldn't believe how easy it was
    He put the gun into his face
    (So much blood for such a tiny little hole)”
    The music starts off mellow as Pig is so happy that its all over but it soon enough cuts into the screams and screams of Ruiner as he is dying before he’s finished his sick games of hurting people.

    Pig’s suicide note etched into the walls of his skull. Probably written to his only and “sweetest friend” The Ruiner who is the only company he’s had. It just shows how weak and sorrowful a man Pig really is. The first verse accounts his reasons for ending it all, he can’t feel anymore, he is no longer human and the heroin needle does nothing for him. He’s trying to kill all the horrible memories but he can’t and therefore must end it. He tells Ruiner how he’s going to let him down by no longer letting him do his dirty work and he is now going to make the Ruiner hurt. He leaves behind his “empire of dirt” that he and Ruiner have built together.
    “If I could start again
    A million miles away
    I would keep myself
    I would find a way”
    Pig tries his hardest to convince himself that if he were given another chance then he would manage to control himself and find a way to live a happy life, but the loud distorted guitar at the end shows that this can not be true, there will always be a piece of Ruiner inside him.

    Nine Inch Nails