- Covered Up: Most people tend to be more familiar with Johnny Cash's cover of "Hurt" than with the original version from this album.
- Epic Riff: The drums in Eraser.
- The remixes of the title track, "The Downward Spiral (A Gilded Sickness)" and "The Downward Spiral (The Bottom)", also deserves a special mention.
- Fridge Brilliance: If you pay attention to the Title Track's length, you'll realize that it clocks in at 3:57, as in ".357 Revolver" (which is presumably used by the protagonist during his suicide attempt).
- Harsher in Hindsight: The title song becomes even more disturbing after Kurt Cobain's suicide in April 5th, 1994, since it's about the main character losing his sanity and shooting himself with a firearm. Also, the album was released BEFORE the actual event happened.
- Jerkass Woobie: The protagonist of the album may be (or may not be) a self-destructive megalomaniac who has hurt a lot of people in some absolutely horrific ways, but he clearly has some severe issues, and his self-loathing often clashes with his ego.
- Misaimed Fandom: The public's response to "Closer". Or, for that matter, most of the album.
- Moral Event Horizon: "Big Man with a Gun" could be this depending on whether you interpret it as depicting a rape, a massacre or... both.
- Nightmare Fuel: Most tracks on this album include nightmare fuel in some way.
- The opening track, "Mr. Self Destruct", is already incredibly heavy, but to top it off, it ends with multiple, very disconcerting loops of distorted guitars playing dissonant melodies (provided by Adrian Belew of Frank Zappa and King Crimson fame).
- Closer is made of nightmare fuel. Not only is it freaking creepy as all hell, but the sound itself seems like it was engineered to put you on edge.
- Pretty much half of "The Becoming" is made up of a loop of people screaming distorted to sound like electronic music. This is most apparent in a breakdown near the end, in which almost all of the sounds on the track are replaced with this distorted as all hell screaming. Oh, and it also has a part with a 12 stringed guitar in which some sort of moaning machine can be heard grating on your ears with a pitchfork.
- In the intro to "Big Man with a Gun", there's a highly distorted (and almost unrecognizable) scream of pleasure taken directly from a porn movie.
- All of "Big Man with a Gun", really: this is the point where the already dark and nihilistic album takes a turn into the supremely fucked up. The intense speed of the song and the fierce distortion in the music and vocals building throughout, combined with the lyrics, make this deeply unsettling, particularly when followed immediately by "A Warm Place".
- Speaking of "A Warm Place", whilst it's easily the lightest and most ambient song of the album (see Sweet Dreams Fuel below), the fact that it follows "Big Man" and is such an incredible Mood Whiplash (this is basically the point of the story where the narrator realizes just how much he's fucked up) that it becomes deeply unsettling.
- Many people consider the title track to be nightmare fuel, with the muffled screaming of the word "NOOOOOOOOOO-" and unsettling lyrics along with a very distorted guitar sound, it sounds like the entire track is rotting and you can hear the flesh of the track being eaten by the maggots that were your sanity before you started listening to this album.
- The remixes "The Downward Spiral (A Gilded Sickness)" and "The Downward Spiral (The Bottom)" are EVEN WORSE! While the first starts with a disturbing riff along with a reversed motif of the title song itself, then we have a heavily distorted melody playing throughout the entire track. The second one features heavy breathing noises in the beginning while accompanied with Trent Reznor's infamous scream from the title track, but this time, it's unmuffled and LOUDER!
- The entire remix album.
- While it was cut from the album and most likely never even committed to tape, the mere idea that Trent wrote a song so unapologetically grim as "Just Do It" that it had to be cut out of fear that it would sound like an endorsement of suicide! This is why it got replaced with the title track instead.
- Meta: for what seems like no purpose other than extra creepiness factor, Trent recorded the album in the house where Sharon Tate had been brutally murdered by the Manson family.
- Also, the album itself uses Russell Mills' "Wound" artwork, in which according to the latter, it was made out of plaster, acrylics, oils, rusted metals, insects, moths, blood (of the painter himself), wax, varnishes, and surgical bandaging on a wooden panel.
- Suspiciously Similar Song: Reznor himself admits that "A Warm Place" is very similar to David Bowie's "Crystal Japan".
- Sweet Dreams Fuel: "A Warm Place", a beautiful ambient/new-age composition that provides a break from the album's chaos. Though in a roundabout way, the fact that it isn't scary like the rest of the album, as one might expect, still makes it scary. Not an easy feat.
- Tear Jerker:
YMMV / The Downward Spiral