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Hello, my name is Chris, you may remember me from the music section. If not, well, that is a tremendous blow to my ego. Today, however, I’m reviewing a book. It’s Into The Never: Nine Inch Nails and the Creation of The Downward Spiral by Adam Steiner.
Twenty-six years after its release, The Downward Spiral is widely regarded as Trent Reznor’s magnum opus. An album which changed the musical landscape upon its release, spawning many imitators. Even today it still sounds as fresh and brutal as it did upon release.
Adam Steiner clearly did his homework here. This is one of the most comprehensive books I’ve ever read—and that pertains to any subject. Often you will read a book on a person, band, or subject you love and feel as if the author didn’t put enough effort in. Maybe there is too much bias, or the sense of a blatant cash-in. However, while reading the first few pages of Into The Never, Steiner’s passion for music is immediately obvious. The layout, along with the style, makes for an easy read.
Of course, the book doesn’t just cover the making of the album. It delves into the background of The Downward Spiral and its influence on the music world. Steiner refers to articles, interviews, criticism, and music history to allow for a better understanding of the record. There are fascinating details regarding the making of the album’s artwork, Reznor’s own influences, and the recording process. I won’t spoil it for those who don’t know, but these details really elevate Into The Never.
He goes into great detail examining, comparing, and explaining the themes of the album. This includes subjects like self-loathing, BDSM, mental health, and loss of faith—reflecting the times, and the changing attitudes of many young people. The Downward Spiral is an album full of chaos, brutality and, at times, beauty. Much like Reznor’s mental state at the time, it’s an unstable record. Steiner does a great job of getting inside both Reznor’s state of mind and the narrator’s head. It is a descent into pain and madness.
The way he writes about these topics is accessible for casual readers and NIN fans alike, making for an emotional experience. There is no set timeline in the book, but it never jumps around to the point where it becomes confusing. A chapter may be predominantly set in 1994, but go on to reference an article or interview from 2004 or 2013 for added clarity.
To create an album like this, the artist must be in a dark place. Yes, the album is harsh in its nature, themes and overall sound, but it is cathartic too. Given Reznor’s success following the release of the album, and his influence in music today, he emerged the victor. Into The Never does an excellent job of placing the album in the context of the era, while establishing it’s significance today and showing us Reznor’s path from the darkness all the way to winning an Oscar for The Social Network.
Much like the triumph that is The Downward Spiral, Into The Never is its own triumph, and a perfect companion piece to such a significant album. The analysis, research, passion, and intelligent interpretation is top tier. You will learn a great deal more than just the meanings behind the songs. The album is an essential listening experience and the book is must-read material.
Into the Never is out now in the United States and will be available from April in the UK & Ireland.