Broken (also known as Halo 5) is an EP released on September 22nd 1992. Although not technically so, Broken is usually considered Nine Inch Nails' second major release after Pretty Hate Machine since it consists entirely of new material. The EP was recorded in secret, in order to avoid interference from TVT Records. It was followed later that year by Fixed, a companion EP of remixes of the songs on Broken.
A1 "Pinion" - 1:02
A "Physical" - 5:29
For more information, see Broken Movie
Music videos were shot for each song with the exception of "Last," "Physical" and "Suck." These videos were included on the second part of the Closure VHS set. Peter Christopherson also compiled these videos along with an alternate version of "Gave Up" into a very violent and extreme long-form video known as the Broken Movie.
The release of Broken followed on from a major disagreement between Reznor and his record label at the time, TVT Records, and the influence of the conflict is evident in multiple aspects of the record. After the credits in the packaging, a line reads "no thanks: you know who you fucking are" followed by "the slave thinks he is released from bondage only to find a stronger set of chains." This is most likely directed towards TVT Records' Steve Gottlieb, who refused to allow Reznor out of his contract, resulting in a legal battle between the two parties. A direct reference to Gottlieb appears in one of the music videos for "Gave Up", where the words "FUCK YOU STEVE" can be spotted on a computer screen.
Trent Reznor has also stated that during the Pretty Hate Machine Tour the songs grew more aggressive when played by a live band compared to their studio counterparts. Violence on-stage also became a common feature at their shows as a result of the band venting pent-up frustration and anger on their instruments. Consequently, Broken sounds much more abrasive and harsher with the increased prominence of distorted guitars, amongst other things.
On this EP, there are louder mixes and more distortion on every instrument, including a classic Mellotron MKIV (originally owned by John Lennon), which can be heard most noticeably on the track "Gave Up". Reznor said he wanted the album to be "an abrasive, hard-to-listen-to thing...I wanted to make a record that the first time you hear it you don't like it, but you might want to hear it again, but by the third time it's pretty cool. By the fifth time, you really like it and possibly by the tenth time you're not sick of it and now it all makes sense."
In an interview with Keyboard Magazine in 1994, Reznor elaborated on the EP's unique guitar textures:
"Broken, for example, had a lot of that super-thick chunk sound. Almost every guitar sound on that record was me playing through an old Zoom pedal, direct, and then going into Turbosynth. Then I used a couple of key ingredients to make it sound unlike any real sound in the world, and layered about four of them together. By then, it wasn't a guitar anymore. It's an awesome sound."
In an interview with Alternative Press in 1993, Reznor discussed the writing and instrumentation:
"I tried doing an album that I actually just wrote on guitar rather than my tried-and-true method of a drum machine and keyboards. So with the exception of 'Happiness in Slavery' all songs were written on guitar. I was gonna make it totally stripped down to guitar, bass and drums but as I started it I realized I could easily fall into another trap. What might sound interesting to me - because I'm not used to it - may sound like a garage band to the world. So we just took the three instruments and sampled 'em, fucked with 'em, processed them. It's kind of overboard, we did go crazy. It's kind of dense, too dense. It's over analyzed - every song has 20 different melodies that you won't hear the first five or ten times you listen, or maybe never."
"Caution: Not for use with mono devices"
A warning about mono devices appears in the liner notes. Trent Reznor gave the following explanation for this warning:
"Regarding the warning for 'mono' devices... Without getting too far in detail, a scientific property of sound is its 'phase'. When recording music in stereo, you're supposed to be aware of its phase. If not, certain parts of the sound will disappear when it's played in mono. So, we discovered that by messing around with the phase, we could make elements of the music stand out rather oddly. (remember Q-sound? -it's based on the same type of principle) So...certain songs on 'broken' we mixed out of phase (because we felt like it) BUT... The songs don't sound right on mono devices (like some radios or TVs). Has anyone heard 'happiness in slavery' on the radio? I heard it on KROQ in LA and the snare drum was gone through most of the song. (and yes, it kind of destroys the groove!) So, basically, that's what that means."
An A4-sized press sheet included with the 12" vinyl promo includes the following passage from Reznor:
Broken was secretly recorded from march to august 1992 in a variety of locations
The re-release of The Downward Spiral (along with Trent's own words, shown below) started rumors that Broken/Fixed could eventually be re-released in high definition stereo and surround sound.
Definitive 2017 Edition Vinyl
A vinyl reissue was annouced in December 2016, with further vinyl reissues of the other major NIN releases to follow.
"Trent Reznor and NIN art director John Crawford set out to make the “definitive editions” of all the main NIN releases on vinyl. Reznor: 'We want to present the catalog as it was intended to be, with no compromises. That means a careful remastering of the audio from the original sources, a careful and painstaking recreation of the artwork, pristine materials, some surprises and an insane attention to detail that you probably won’t notice… but it matters to us. No extra bullshit and gimmicks – the “real” records in their truest form available at a reasonable price.'
The Broken reissue description also implies that some sort of bonus material will be included.
"THE DEFINITIVE VERSION OF BROKEN, METICULOUSLY PREPARED BY TRENT REZNOR AND NIN ART DIRECTOR JOHN CRAWFORD. REMASTERED IN 2016 ON 180GRAM VINYL WITH REMASTERED ARTWORK + SECRETS INCLUDED."