Soundgarden’s ’Superunknown’ & Nine Inch Nails’ ‘The Downward Spiral’ turn 30

A&M Records; Nothing/Interscope Records

March 8, 1994: First it steals your mind, then it gets you closer to God.

Thirty years ago Friday, the iconic ’90s albums Superunknown by Soundgarden and The Downward Spiral from Nine Inch Nails were both released. 

Superunknown was Soundgarden’s first album to be released following the grunge explosion of 1992, driven by the success of Nirvana‘s Nevermind and “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” It debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 and was certified triple Platinum by the RIAA before the year was over. Today, it’s certified six-times Platinum.

Building on the sounds of 1991’s Badmotorfinger, Soundgarden introduced more psychedelic and Beatles-influenced elements on Superunknown, and continued to experiment with alternate tunings. It spawned singles in “Spoonman,” “Fell on Black Days,” “The Day I Tried to Live” and “My Wave,” as well as “Black Hole Sun,” which became Soundgarden’s signature song.

The “Black Hole Sun” video was also very influential and reflected the visual aesthetic of the ’90s.

The Downward Spiral, meanwhile, debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200, right behind Superunknown. It marked the second full-length effort from the Trent Reznor-led outfit and is certified four-times Platinum.

Just as Superunknown was a landmark album for grunge, The Downward Spiral was a seminal release for the industrial rock scene of the ’90s. Its abrasive sound was matched by its controversial backstory — it was partly recorded in the house where Sharon Tate was infamously murdered — and lyrics, as heard in the very family unfriendly “Closer.”

In between all that, The Downward Spiral also shows Reznor’s sensitive side with the track “Hurt,” which was later covered by Johnny Cash.

Along with sharing an important release date, Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails shared the live stage during a 2014 co-headlining tour.

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