As a pioneer of the industrial/darkwave genre, Trent Reznor’s first of his many masterpieces begins with the Nine Inch Nails 1989 release of Pretty Hate Machine. With a dominant sound of electronic synth mixed with noisy originality the album encapsulates a listener as it drags them into a new world of emotion. It begins with probably Nine Inch Nails‘ most recognised song, “Head like a Hole.” Driven by a beautifully catchy riff, it cascades into the electronic vivacity of “Terrible Lie.” The innovative style of music throughout the song (and the rest of the album) is enough to engage a listener of any style into the realms of industrial rock. As the album continues, it slowly progresses into famous songs such as “Kinda I want to’ and Nine Inch Nails’ first-ever produced song “Down in it”. While the song is a unique combination of rap-style vocals and electronic ‘noise’ it still follows the dominating sound of the album while at the same time, steers away from the conventions of the genre. Other notable compositions include the quiet (almost silent) tone of “Something I Can Never Have” which fixates on the emotional dysfunction of the creator, as well as the heavily electronic sounds of “Sin,” “The Only Time” and “Ringfinger.”
Lyrically, Pretty Hate Machine provides perhaps the most eloquent of all Nine Inch Nail releases. Songs such as “Head like a Hole,” “Terrible Lie,” “Something I Can Never Have” and “Ringfinger” each fixate on the boundaries of heart-break, power, greed, religion and ambiguity demonstrating Reznor’s ingenious capacity to express his ideas so that a listener vicariously experiences the feelings with him. Although his voice is not terribly versatile, it is just another essentially important instrument in the creation of the album’s industrial feel.
Overall, the original and pioneering sound of this album reflects the artistic nature of industrial rock’s most prominent master before he became one of the most notable icons in ‘popular music’ (Rolling Stone). Arguably it was this album that stimulated America’s initial interest in the industrial-rock group which, after the release of The Downward Spiral, later catapulted their name into the history books of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Because Pretty Hate Machine takes on a new and creative approach to music, it is truly recommended for those willing to experience the ways ‘music’, in this instance, has been twisted, deformed and mangled.