Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!
There may not be an mainstream artist out there as difficult to cover as Nine Inch Nails. By its very nature, Trent Reznor’s music doesn’t offer an easy way in. Johnny Cash did it beautifully of course, but let’s be honest, “Hurt” wasn’t exactly the most abrasive song in the band’s catalog to begin with. In keeping with the Nine Inch Nails spirit, then, many (though certainly not all) of the covers below show at least some industrial influence. It’s noisy, it’s loud, and it’s strangely cathartic. Just like the original.
Candymachine88 – Mr. Self Destruct
Though every bit as loud as the original, Candymachine88’s “Mr. Self Destruct” slows down the tempo to bring out the menace in lines like “I drag you down, I use you up.” Plus, hearing a female voice gives the angst in Reznor’s lyrics a fresh twist.
Lady Dead Life Urban Sky – Piggy
The name Lady Dead Life Urban Sky would certainly indicate this band knows their way around goth and industrial music. Considering the potential, the band shows restraint on this slow-burning cover. Rattling chains and plinking piano provide a haunted-house backdrop to this standout.
The Goth Acoustic Ensemble – Heresy
The Goth Acoustic Ensemble seem to have formed for a 2005 Nine Inch Nails tribute and then disappeared again. The band name describes the sound accurately, but what it leaves out is the real surprise: how well it works.
Wade Mueller – March of the Pigs
This bedroom recording is lo-fi as hell, but there’s something undeniably charming about hearing “March of the Pigs” performed on ukulele. The way it was always meant to be heard? Perhaps not, but it’s definitely different.
Nine Inch Richards – Closer
Have you ever wondered what “Closer” would sound like as sung by a redneck farmer? Well, you’re about to find out. In fact, Nine Inch Richards performed the experiment three separate times on the well-titled Closer to Hogs EP.
Heroin Slug – Ruiner
One wonders what Reznor would think of the whole “chiptune” phenomenon. He’s praised genre flag-bearers Crystal Castles in the past, so perhaps he’d approve of this bleep-bloop 8-bit cover of “Ruiner.”
Louis Guidone – The Becoming
While certainly in the Reznor mold, this dark piano opening and super-distorted vocals turn “The Becoming” into something that much more inscrutable.
Halo 8 – I Do Not Want This
In 2007, a Kentucky pickup band covered all of The Downward Spiral for Halloween. Their name: Halo 8, which superfans will know is an alternate title for this album. They recorded the whole thing for YouTube. The audio quality is ehhh, but hey, people don’t cover “I Do Not Want This” every day.
Rough with Your Mother – Big Man with a Gun
The single-string acoustic plucking plays off the loud chord crashes to drastically transform the originally 90-second track. It starts sounding like a DIY recording, but slowly reveals unexpectedly thought-out production flourishes.
From Exile – A Warm Place
From Exile’s Nine Inch Nails tribute EP earlier this year is hit and miss, but this shoegaze-y cover showcases it at its best. Country-western guitar echoes over barren synth shivers in an instrumental that takes you on a journey in three minutes and 25 seconds.
Omega Red – Eraser
As a mostly-instrumental, “Eraser” doesn’t draw the cover artist’s eye all that often. There’s an interesting-sounding, but poorly filmed, acoustic take on YouTube and this spastic electro performance by Omega Red. And that’s about it.
The Pluto Tapes – Reptile
The Pluto Tapes’ folk-rock takes a 180 from the original without the slightest hint of irony. Reznor’s skill as a lyricist comes to the fore in this acousta-rock nugget.
Ark Sano – The Downward Spiral
Ark Sano’s Piano Tribute to Nine Inch Nails is a must-have. It finds dissonant classical beauty in eight classic tracks before wrapping up with this nine-minute performance of maximal tension, minimal release.
2Cellos – Hurt
We wanted to avoid the obvious choice on this one (which you can revisit here), but it proved difficult. Subsequent covers mostly ape the Cash mold. This dueling-cello performance, suffice to say, does not. At all.