Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor has long been among the pantheon of the rock pioneers he worshipped and worked with early on, from Ministry bandleader and industrial godfather Al Jourgensen to chameleonic trailblazer David Bowie. Along the way, he's carved out his own singular niche with NIN by fusing the various musical styles in which he found sonic respite and inspiration while adding his own singular touch, full of revelatory brilliance and ever-shifting nuance. Below are the NIN albums (and EP) you, the fans, voted on as his most memorable and impactful work — including one very surprising top vote-getter.
After riding a tumultuous wave of mainstream fame throughout the Nineties, Trent Reznor was left with substance abuse issues and a heavy dose of writer's block by the early Aughts. Through facing and then conquering those massive hurdles, he dug in and poured out NIN's stark and stunning fourth LP With Teeth, which represented a striking update on the band's signature sound.
The Broken EP came amid more turmoil — from a humiliating European run with Guns N' Roses to label disputes that compelled Reznor and his partners to record under pseudonyms. Out of that fiery era came the band's most aggressive offering, a raw, hate-spiked industrial-metal screed punctuated by vitriolic classics such as "Wish" and "Happiness in Slavery."
Reznor's dance-heavy debut was quickly panned by many for being derivative and for its journal-entry lyrics and novice production. What no one can deny, though, is the lasting impact of propulsive, scathing yet hooky compositions like the LP's singles "Head Like a Hole" and "Down in It," which are still live-show and goth-club staples even now three decades later.
The Downward Spiral is Nine Inch Nails' most iconic and commercially successful album, so it's no surprise that fans would favor the game-changing LP. So popular was the record and such instant-classic singles (and videos) "Closer" and "March of the Pigs" that one could almost single-handedly point to Reznor for the late-Nineties industrial-rock explosion that would give birth to thousands of copycat bands who never managed to even approximate the greatness of this singular magnum opus.
A commercial bomb in its time, The Fragile is the dark-horse contender that, rather shockingly, edged out Downward Spiral for the top spot here. The double album continues some of the lyrical themes found in its smash-hit predecessor, but incorporates a cleaner, more ambient tone throughout to create a long-form cinematic journey that sounds lush and romantic, more mature, melancholic love letter than unbridled expression of youthful rage. As such, it's aged well. Reznor went from bottled lightning to all-time rock-history great with this one.