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Nine Inch Nails – With Teeth (DualDisc) Review

by December 07, 2006
Label: Interscope

Price: $19.98 | Get the Best Price

Nine Inch Nails (NIN) is Trent Reznor. All the music is written by, and nearly all is performed by, him. This fact, in and of itself, is fairly impressive. Nine Inch Nails is a love 'em or hate 'em kind of band. Their style of industrial rock can grate on peoples nerves. The overall themes of disillusionment, pain, and anger tends to speak to a younger, angst-filled audience though many older fans remember those days vividly enough to find a certain, perverse nostalgia in this type of music. If this type of music is your bag, baby, then read on. Disclaimer: Many of the adjectives and descriptors I use in this review could be interpreted as negative. They are not meant to be. Think of wines - Sauvignon Blanc is often described as having the aroma (nose) of feline urine - which is a compliment (go figure).

Review Methodology

Discs are listened to a minimum of twice with at least a 24 hour separation between the listening sessions. During session one, notes are taken on the subjective experience of the implementation of the DTS Surround (in this case) along with notes on other features. During session two, the original notes are compared and expanded upon during the listening experience. Additional listening sessions are added as needed. Before each session, speaker calibration is checked using an SPL meter and the test-tones on the receiver, in this case the Denon AVR-3805 .

The Songs

1) All The Love In The World

2) You Know What You Are?

3) The Collector

4) The Hand That Feeds

5) Love Is Not Enough

6) Every Day Is Exactly The Same

7) With Teeth

8) Only

9) Getting Smaller

10) Sunspots

11) The Line Begins To Blur

12) Beside You In Time

13) Right Where It Belongs


Angry, industrial, driving, distortion, electronic, harsh… All these and more are appropriate adjectives for NIN's music. Let's just get this out of the way now: this album is harsh and compressed (much more the former than the latter). Anyone who has ever heard NIN knows to expect this. The counterpoint has always been Trent Reznor's voice, which has a sweet, melodic, pop sound to it when it's not being run through a computer and heavily distorted (which is not uncommon). Looking for soft, gentle melodies accented by delicate instruments and uplifting lyrics…? Look elsewhere. Looking for heavily distorted music punctuated by a driving guitar/percussion line, highlighted by harsh industrial sound effects, all supporting angry, head banging lyrics…? You've come to the right place.

Audio Quality

So, don't be surprised at the low score. I mean, come on, you can't expect the audio quality to be that good on an album like this, right? Actually, a 2 is a fairly respectable score in this genre. The fact is, it is supposed to sound this way. How do you make distortion sound "good" anyway? You don't. The music mimics the tenor of the lyrics - angry and abrasive. That tone is carried throughout the entire album (and NIN's body of work). It is what makes NIN so popular in the first place. So for all you fans out there, disregard this rating - it doesn't apply to you, skip to Surround Implementation.

To all the rest of you that have had little experience with NIN, yes, most of the album is abrasive. Distortion is present in most every song and vocal. While there are moments of clarity and beauty, these are presented as counterpoint to the rest of the album. Does this mean the album is not going to be enjoyable for the masses…? Probably so (though there are a few tracks that a have more mass appeal). If the idea of a guitar being strangled (until it makes a sound so distorted that you'll find yourself wondering whether or not they could even play the thing after all that) sounds unpleasant, you're not going to like this album. Stop reading and visit the software review page - there is a nice Diana Krall album you should check out. If, on the other hand, you can put up with distortion or (gasp!) you even like it, read on.

If you are a bassaholic - this may not be the album for you. I found the low end to be extremely anemic on many of the tracks. On the tracks that it was present, it was OK; but on the rest, the lack of bass made the tracks a bit fatiguing. In all honesty this album was destined, with all the distortion and screaming, to be fatiguing anyway, but a little more bass may have balanced it out a bit more.

One thing that impressed me was a surprising lack of compression on much of the album. While there was quite a bit of compression within the album (I expected much more), this seemed to be more for effect than out of some need to keep every element the same volume. Many times, I was surprised to find a soft line of a piano melody or some whispered lyrics under what sounded like someone sending test tones through a keyboard while screaming through a plastic bag. Once again, distortion, compression, harshness… all used to create a specific sound.

There are a few live instruments used during this album, mostly percussive in nature, and a piano is employed during a number of tracks. I found the piano, even amidst the other instruments (and I use that word lightly) or sound effects, to be extremely lifelike. It was really refreshing, concurrent with all of the chaos, to hear such a reassuring sound ring through. It was like a sonic anchor.

While I've decided against commenting on each track for fear of repetition, I must bring up a few tracks. Track 8: "Only" started with a cheesy Casio keyboard drum machine beat that I thought was going to be a comment on such low production sounds… and then wasn't. Track 13: " Right Where It Belongs" had an excellent and interesting transition from clear music and recessed/distorted vocals, to recessed/distorted music and clear vocals. Lastly Track 12: "Beside You In Time" was created simply to instill a drug induced feeling in the listener. This track, according to my sources (whose names are being withheld to protect them from Catholic Guilt), is made to sound remarkably similar to the sonic distortions experienced during the ingestion of certain illicit substances. While my sources declined to be more specific, they did mention that it was, "way trippy man," and that, "whoa, that totally sounds rad, dude," and other such insightful comments. Just an FYI.

Two Channel Comparison

I didn't notice much of a difference in the audio quality between the two channel implementation verses the multi-channel version. One check in the favor of the two-channel was that it was less harsh and less fatiguing probably because there were fewer speakers involved. My opinion, if I'm not in the car, I don't see much use for the two channel version after experiencing the surround version (I can't wait to see the polite and thoughtful dissenting positions on the forum about this simple statement).

Surround Implementation

This album had some great use of the surround format. While I was not able to review the DVD-A version, the DD version was very well done. I found myself enjoying instrument and vocal placements and movements that usually drive me up a wall. Some of the choices were very unusual and unnatural, but they were paired with specific changes in the songs' rhythm, melody, or sound effect, so they worked. The key is forethought. Think about why a sound should move and the purpose of the move or why a sound is located in a specific speaker. As long as that is done, I believe the surround format really enhances the music.

Each track had its share of well done surround elements. I knew going in to this review that the industrial nature of NIN's music could very well lend itself well to the surround format. I was not disappointed. NIN uses a number of strange clanks, clunks, bangs, and other percussive sounds. These are used to good effect at nearly every turn. The emersion of the sound really pulls you into each song. You are surrounded by sound, not in a "live performance" kind of way, but "what the inside of a barrel going over Niagara Falls must sound like" kind of way.

There was a lot of movement of the vocals in this album. There was one moment on Track 6: " Every Day Is Exactly The Same" , where the vocals shift to a whisper anchored in the Right Surround speaker and then, as the volume increases, the vocal moves slowly to the front. Generally, I'd be wailing, "Why, why must you do such silly things?!" In this case, I found the opposite to be true. There were many other examples and each time I heard one, I'd think, "I shouldn't like this… but I do."

One small gripe with the Surround Implementation was the definition was a little thin at times. Thin may not be the right word. It was more like muddy or undefined. It wasn't overly prevalent, and could have been exacerbated by the audio quality, but it was there nonetheless.


You have to go online for any extras of much value. The DVD-A version (not under review here) does have pictures but you can get pictures online as well as the lyrics and credits. The upside to the website is that you can download POSTER sized graphics (for all you out there with plotters), wallpaper for your computer, and watch two videos ( Only and The Hand that Feeds , which is also on the DVD). The downside is that you have to go online (duh) and register (which some people are loath to do). One of the cooler elements of the extras is a number of snippets provided in the Body of Work section. This gives a few seconds of two channel music or video from many of the numerous NIN releases over the years. Think of them as commercials - it lets you hear/see enough to determine whether or not it would make a valuable addition to your collection while not giving anything away. This extra would have had a lot more value to me if an entire song or video was provided though I'm sure disc space would quickly become an issue. Below is a list of the provided snippets.


Broken - Wish

Fixed - Gave Up

March of the Pigs - All the Pigs, All Lined Up

The Downward Spiral - Hurt

The Downward Spiral (Deluxe addition) - Burn

The Downward Spiral (Deluxe addition) - Dead Souls

The Downward Spiral (Dual Disc) - Closer [Video]

Closer to God - Closer to God

Further Down the Spiral - Pigy (Nothing Can Stop Me Now)

The Perfect Drug - The Perfect Drug

Closure - March of the Pigs [Live Video]

Closure - Wish [Live Video]

Closure - The Perfect Drug [Video]

The Day the World Went Away - The Day the World Went Away

Fragile - Somewhat Damaged

Fragile - The Wretched

Fragile - Into the Void

Fragile - Starfuckers Inc.

We're in this Together - We're in this Together

Things Falling Apart - 10 Miles High (Version)

And All That Could Have Been. Live - The Wretched [Live Video]

And All That Could Have Been. Live - The Great Below [Live Video]

And All That Could Have Been. Live - Gave Up

And All That Could Have Been. Live - And All That Could Have Been. Live

The Hand that Feeds - The Hand that Feeds (straight mix)


Reading back over my review, I realize that it doesn't sound very positive. In an effort to accurately describe the tenor of the music, I was forced to use a number of words that would normally have a negative connotation. Readers should be aware that there was no value judgments intended in those descriptors. I am simply trying to adequately convey to someone that has never heard NIN what their music sounds like. I can't remember how many times in my angst riddled youth, I yearned for the type of abrasive and angry music that NIN's provides. They are a niche band, for sure, but if you are into this type of music, there are few better.

To all of you fans out there, this album mirrors much of NIN's previous works. You are not going to hear a great departure from what you've heard in the past… which is a good thing if you are a fan of previous works. The addition of the 5.1 DD surround format was definitely well done and does the music justice. It truly gives the music the type of treatment that enhances rather than distracts.


About the author:
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As Associate Editor at Audioholics, Tom promises to the best of his ability to give each review the same amount of attention, consideration, and thoughtfulness as possible and keep his writings free from undue bias and preconceptions. Any indication, either internally or from another, that bias has entered into his review will be immediately investigated. Substantiation of mistakes or bias will be immediately corrected regardless of personal stake, feelings, or ego.

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