The Way Out Is Through

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"The Way Out Is Through"
Album: The Fragile (Right)
Length: 4:17
Tempo: 120 BPM
Versions: The Way Out Is Through
The Way Out Is Through (Alternate Version)
Live: Fragility
Wave Goodbye Tour through NIN 2013 Festival Tour

"The Way Out Is Through" is the first track on the Right disc of The Fragile. It is one of the more abstract and non-traditional songs on the album, with its structure based around a drawn-out crescendo. It was featured in a teaser trailer for the album, with Trent Reznor singing part of the chorus a cappella. It is often confused with "Underneath It All" due to that song title appearing in its lyrics.


Song title

In an interview published in VIVA 2 Magazine, Reznor revealed the source of its title: "The way that I couldn't cope with [the death of his grandmother] was by not addressing it or having the courage to write anything. And it took that realization to turn it around and by writing about it and expressing, I felt better about it, I felt like I could see through it. The way out is through. That's where the song title came from because I thought that the way out was skirting the issue and walking on the curb."

Screen capture of the song's tracksheet from during The Fragile era.
DOOM end screen text
Its working title, as revealed by a picture of its tracking sheet on, was "Anomaly." There is a corresponding fan theory that both names are a reference to the 1993 video game Doom - the level "E1M8: Phobos Anomaly". Upon beating that level, the player is met with a text screen that includes the phrase "Looks like you're stuck on the shores of Hell. The only way out is through."


On October 15, 2010, Alan Moulder answered a question about the filtering introduction to this song on the PSW Recording Forums:

"The filtering was done two ways. The music went through the filters on a Virus synth and that was programmed via midi. We used that treatment a lot on the record. The vocals/whispering that come up at the beginning was done by sending them out to a little Auratone speaker on a long lead and the assistant holding it and walking a long a corridor into a big garage with a U87 mic at the end of it. He started at the end of the corridor and walked right up to the mic. The idea being it sounds like it comes from far away and gets closer. I was bored and thought it'd be funny to do, it took a few attempts to get the timing right."

— Alan Moulder[1]

Song Credits





The Way Out Is Through

The song begins quietly in 6/8 with percussion and layered ambient sounds and Reznor whispering the first two lines over and over. This gives way to the building of the crescendo, as new drums enter and synthesizers play one of the prominent melodies of the song, all equalized to sound as if underwater. The drum programming here is very similar in pattern to that of "The Becoming." The melody crossfades with another, this one played on guitar, and tone of the song shifts, becoming darker as the song gradually builds to its climax: a simple, drum-driven rhythm matched by distorted guitars and synthesizers. Reznor enters to yell out the chorus, ending the song's climax. It is followed by a denouement featuring the same melody from before the chorus and Reznor's whispering, this time with chromatic piano improvisation over top. The end of the song segues quietly to "Into The Void."

The Way Out Is Through (Alternate Version)

Running Time: 4:26

Released on The Fragile: Deviations 1. Also known as "The Way Out Is Through" (Instrumental) when it was originally released on Apple Music as part of The Fragile Instrumental.


"The Way Out Is Through" made its live debut on November 14, 1999. During the Fragility v1.0 tour, the song was played behind a large curtain onto which images were projected, sung in a lower key and its climax marked both the end of the song and of the "slow section" of the concerts, with the curtain rising and leading into "Wish."


    All I've undergone
    I will keep on
    Underneath it all
    We feel so small
    The heavens fall
    But still we crawl
    All I've undergone
    I will keep on

External links

Previous track - "The Great Below" Track 13 from The Fragile Right (CD), Side D (Vinyl) Next track - "Into The Void"
This page was last modified on 21 December 2019, at 17:38. This page has been accessed 109,748 times.