Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor became an instant alternative-music hero with 1989's PRETTY HATE MACHINE, an angry-yet-accessible album that appealed to rock fans and club kids alike. Record-label woes led to a five-year delay for Reznor's follow-up, with two hard-edged EPs (BROKEN and its remix disc, FIXED) issued in the interim. Finally released in 1994, THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL seethes with an almost unhinged industrial ferocity, due, in part to both Reznor's frustration with messy bureaucratic entanglements and time spent with Ministry's Al Jourgensen during the peak of that band's guitar-heavy phase. Although, SPIRAL does reveal the influence of latter-day Ministry (particularly on the blazing opener, "Mr. Self Destruct," and the scathing, distortion-filled "March of the Pigs"), Reznor also incorporates elements of progressive rock and funk into the proceedings. More than any other Nine Inch Nails song, the provocative, groove-laden "Closer" (and its shocking video) established Reznor as a bold, audacious artist. In contrast, quiet and emotive songs such as Eno-esque instrumental "A Warm Place" and the spare, haunting "Hurt" (famously covered by Johnny Cash shortly before the country legend's death) revealed Reznor's sensitive side. Here the intense performer works with his largest sonic palette yet, and the results are fascinating.