Is there a more menacing album to have penetrated the 1990s pop consciousness as profoundly as Nine Inch Nails’ second album, The Downward Spiral? Doubtful.

While NIN’s debut, 1989’s Pretty Hate Machine, certainly put Ohio-bred industrial rocker Trent Reznor and his gritty, mechanical sound on the map, reaching No. 75 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, its follow up was a whole different deal -- it was so subversive, so concerning for parents that the government even got involved.

Recorded in the Hollywood house where the Manson Family murdered five people, including actress Sharon Tate, the release turned Reznor into a massive star, one known for turning inward to unleash the demons from the dark corners of his mind. It opens with the sound of a man being beaten by a prison guard, sampled from the George Lucas film THX1138. Fitting, as the LP is themed around violence and self-flagellation, addiction and self-loathing. Then, of course, there’s the multiple references to “Pig,” one of the words written on the door of the home, back on the fateful night in 1969, in their victims’ blood.

Revisiting the album 25 years later, one thing is clear: gritty and aggressive, but at times tender an atmospheric, it’s a musical masterpiece that hasn’t dated sonically -- its production value is impressive, despite a quarter century of technological development in studio wizardry. Reznor is a master of his technological domain.

Ranking its 15 tracks is tough—there are anthemic singles, haunting ballads, screeching guitar seizures, and atmospheric interludes. But here we go… 

14. “The Downward Spiral”