Trapped alone in the dungeon, Broken is aggressive and has psychopathic tendencies. Much like an esteemed serial killer, Nine Inch Nails on Broken should be feared, but can also be studied to see the intricacies and care that went into the work.
While sadistic and loving the pain of control on others, Broken begins with a short introduction described as, “Pinion.” Where the harsh synths and oblique Church of Satan chimes and bells are an immediate distinction from his previous work, Trent Reznor is engaging and creates both feelings of immaculate power and panic with the listener.
Broken can either make the audience stand at 10 feet tall, or 10 inches. At one point, especially on the following track, “Wish” becomes an anti-social dissection of society with a catchy percussive beatdown and synth being rammed into the skull. Broken, while somewhat short compared to other Nine Inch Nails projects wants to physically obliterate you. The production here stands like an industrial mix of meth with the numbing power of ketamine, Broken matches its name with the destructive ability and pushes on to be a solid jump to a new label as well.
With lyrical themes closer to The Downward Spiral referring to “Pigs” mostly, “Last” is a breakthrough on sonics for the band. Reznor describes over a carousel of snappy snares and warped synths that seemed to be thrown down stairs and placed in fire, “Still feel it all slipping away but it doesn’t matter anymore. Everybody’s still chipping away but it doesn’t matter anymore.”
His delivery begins to be a sunken reflection of a broken man as he describes, “Look through these blackened eyes, you’ll see 10 thousand lies. My lips may promise but my heart is a whore.” It becomes the story of how the slave thinks he is released from bondage only to find a stronger set of chains, finding only stronger illustrations of confinement as Broken presses on.
It could be the overwhelming instrumentation or the consistent action, but Broken quickly becomes one of the best introspective accounts on Nine Inch Nails’ favor. Begging for freedom, just a slave for reprieve, Broken breaks ankles and makes the audience crawl for mercy.