When Nine Inch Nails released their second full-length album, The Downward Spiral, on March 8th, 1994, it immediately sent shock waves through the alternative music scene with its bold concept (Trent Reznor's dark examination of obsession, suffering and self-destruction) and even bolder industrial-rock sound and expert songcraft. Not long after, thanks to inimitable singles like "Closer," the album became a surprise mainstream hit and against all odds now ranks as one of the decade's most commercially successful albums, as well as one of its most artistically enduring. On the eve of The Downward Spiral's 25th birthday, we asked some of our favorite contemporary musicians to talk about their experiences with this pivotal record.
Below, Lingua Ignota mastermind Kristin Hayter explains why Downward represents “an era of crushing pubescent defeat, self-loathing, unstoppable acne, braces” and how Trent Reznor’s complex architectural compositions influenced her own creativity.
LINGUA IGNOTA, the solo project of multidisciplinary artist Kristin Hayter, takes a radical, unflinching approach to themes of violence and vengeance in ways that are moving, brutal, and harrowing. Her music is intentionally situated at specific and strange intersections, incorporating elements of power electronics, death industrial, and black metal alongside baroque classical, spiritual minimalism and folk. Relentless intensity and soaring dramatic arcs are informed by Hayter’s background in classical music, and the major sonic locus of the project is her voice, a dynamic entity that rushes from unhinged screaming to lilting soprano to angular belting. She is notorious for confrontational live performances that can leave an audience breathless or in tears.
Hayter began classical training at the age of ten with intent to pursue an operatic conservatory track. Instead she developed an interdisciplinary fine arts practice at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She continued with graduate work at Brown University, producing a controversial thesis titled BURN EVERYTHING TRUST NO ONE KILL YOURSELF. LINGUA IGNOTA was born out of this thesis which re-contextualized misogynist content as biblically vitriolic anthems for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. A survivor herself, Hayter seeks to give a singularly aggressive voice to the unheard, silenced, and dismissed.