Happiness In Slavery: Revisiting Nine Inch Nails’ harsh 1992 masterpiece, “Broken”

Nine Inch Nails likely did more for industrial rock and metal than any other band, both from a critical and commercial standpoint. While their magnum opus is often considered 1994’s The Downward Spiral, preceding that landmark record was 1992’s Broken EP. The album is a short, yet effective burst of industrial metal that is still some of the angriest music put to tape. Trent Reznor was pissed.

Ignore the barely 30 minute run time. Broken acts as both a launching point to The Downward Spiral, as well as a great transition from the more synthpop style of Pretty Hate Machine. Make no mistake, when you hear “Happiness In Slavery”, you’ll know this isn’t pop music. If the music doesn’t convince you, perhaps the 5 music videos filmed for the album will. Oh wait, they’re all banned and violent as fuck.

“Wish” is the cornerstone of the EP, and also the song that won a Grammy despite having the words “fist fuck” in the lyrics. Amazing. There are touches of melody, too. Take “Last”, for instance. Arguably the best overall song on the record, it’s a menacing track that still features a darkly melodic hook in between its harsh verses.

Broken was responsible for a massive surge in NIN’s popularity. Much of this was due to a huge Trent Reznor vs. TVT Records dispute fueling the aggressive genre shift on the record, and some of it was good old fashioned word of mouth. After all, there’s nothing quite like fans thinking your music videos are a giant snuff film to get everyone talking. Just remember, only you can find happiness in slavery.

Oh, and if you want to watch the full Broken movie for maximum immersion, we recommend it. Just know that it’s beyond NSFW.