ca. 1994




Autor: Sharon O'Connell





Hammered By The Gods

Nine Inch Nails

Wolverhampton Civic Centre

(Konzert: 20.05.1994)

Welcome to Valhalla – about 15 miles north-west of Birmingham. This is the battleground where emotional stormtrooper Trent Reznor (leather shorts, hair shirt, colour of heart, grey – if he had one, of course) has set up his “empire of dirt” for the duration and channels the most negative emotions of each and every one of us into 60 minutes of outrageously dramatic grandeur.

Nine Inch Nails are hammered by their critics an two main counts: 1) Reznor’s angst is theatrical fakery, they reckon, his persona, (pain, persecution, the whole enchilada) nothing more than a calculated sales pitch; 2) NIN are too “hard”, inappropriately macho for these times. Sigh. Just what kind of credentials would satisfy you that NIN are “4 Real”? A lie detector test, maybe? A sworn affidavit? Admission to a mental institution? Suicide? Look, there are a whole load more palatable and commercially secure ways to package your personal problems than NIN’s. Secondly, fear, doubt, chronic insecurity, paranoia, nameless dread – these things have no gender. Reznor may have gone a little further down the track than most of us, but the stuff he sings about is as basic as it gets.

There’s something else in the air tonight and it’s sex. Whewee. Sometimes I wonder if it’s just split lager that’s making the floor so slippery in here. Everywhere pubescent couples are necking and groping, cooing the obscenities from whichever song at each other and yelling “I want to f*** you like an animal” (“Closer”) and “Your kiss… your fist” (“Sin”) with mad-eyed lust.

Not surprising, really – death and sex are old mates. In fact the whole show is like having someone jam their tongue in your ear while they hold a knife to your throat. (I’m just guessing here.)

NIN sound like Hades erupting in a hardware store. They are monstrous in every sense of the word, but avoid the dead-eyed reductivisim of bands like Front 242 or Nitzer Ebb. A lot of their older tunes are basically super-heavy pop: “Terrible Lie”, which opens the show and sends everybody apeshit with its shag-in-an-iron-foundry dynamics and the metronomic “The Only Tim”, which could just about be INXS. “March Of The Pigs”, though, is unbelievably malevolent, despite Reznor’s assurances that “everything is all right”, while “Something I can Never Have” swells with the kind of f***- off symphonic splendour that proves what a cool grasp of scale and momentum NIN really have. In “Reptile”, an awesomely nasty machine-shop grind undercuts some corrosive guitar to produce a huge sculptured thing, but they flip the mood a bit later and cover Queen’s “Get Down, Make Love”. Hey, who says Reznor has no sense of humor?

Then they cleave their way through “Down In It”, brutalise the Minstry-like “Big Man With A Gun” and finish, naturally with “Head Like A Hole”, all cruel, whip-cracking drums (there ain’t nothing like the real thing) and nuclear meltdown guitars.

At the end, Rezor picks up a keyboard and staggers about with it before hurling the thing to the floor. It’s poetic destruction; it’s rock’n’roll; it’s Grand Guignol; it’s the only time, Reznor says, the really feels alive. You better believe it.

Sharon O’Connell