Nine Inch Nails PhotoFORMED: 1989, Cleveland, OH

Nine Inch Nails, the one-man band of Trent Reznor, brought industrial music to the masses with 1989's Pretty Hate Machine. With its electronic rush, incessant beats, and distorted guitars, the album appeared to be like much industrial music on the surface, yet Reznor wrote pop songs, not the soundtrack to a personal horror movie. NIN's scarred, harsh soundscapes were bleak enough, yet Reznor's lyrics raise the despair and self-loathing to new heights; at times, his relentless darkness can veer dangerously close to self-parody.

Pretty Hate Machine wasn't a hit when it was released; it charted in 1990 and stayed on the charts for years afterward. By the time Reznor assembled a band for the first Lollapalooza tour in 1991, the group had a sizable following that only grew with NIN's ferocious performances on the tour. Legal troubles with his record company delayed the release of a second album; in 1992, he released a stop-gap EP, Broken, that was harder and more abrasive than the debut, yet still conformed to conventional song structures; it debuted in the Billboard Top Ten. With their second full-length album, Reznor showed his true roots -- '70s progressive rock. The Downward Spiral was promoted as a concept album, a cohesive piece of work; it also featured ex-King Crimson guitarist Adrian Belew.

Still, NIN is able to straddle two seemingly opposing genres easily, gaining alternative and mainstream hard rock fans alike; whether he likes it or not, Trent Reznor is the man that made industrial palatable for pop fans, and audiences eagerly anticipated his third album, 1999's The Fragile. It debuted at number one, with massive first-week sales, but slipped down the charts rather quickly afterwards, perhaps because the musical climate had changed a great deal over the past five years. The remix album Things Falling Apart followed a year later, as did an extensive world tour. An album of live performances culled from the tour, And All That Could Have Been, was released in early 2002. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide