When you think of unique chords, the heavy hitting industrial rock stylings of Nine Inch Nails probably doesn’t come to mind.
If you dig underneath the layered synths and dirty bass lines you may find some interesting chords, but be warned, dissonance is high up on the priority list here!
Live guitar duties are handled by long time player, and ex-Guns N' Roses guitarist, Robin Finck, but it’s hard to know who laid down some of the lines in the studio. NIN Mastermind Trent Reznor is no stranger to playing guitar, amongst various other session players the band have worked with.
This chord appears in the verse of Head Like A Hole. It’s essentially an E5 power chord with the octave note sharpened.
The naming conventions of this chord are a little unorthodox because the E, B and F notes don’t form any specific chord, but we could view it as an Eadd9 (E B F#) with the add9 note flattened to an F.
An unusual chord here, this time from the track Sanctified. This is basically a D major chord without the 5. You’re playing a D and F# note, the major third from the chord, and then adding another major 3rd in the bass.
You could also view this as a B minor chord without the B notes.
Here’s another very unusual chord for you. This is a B5 chord with an additional #11 note on the top. This is the opening chord to Nine Inch Nails track Hurt, later famously covered by Johnny Cash.
The #11 on top gives the chord a diminished flavour, this interval after all is an octave about the b5, but paired with the existing natural 5 (The F# note) it doesn’t sound fully diminished to the ears.
The humble power chord makes appearances in plenty of NIN songs. Dig into the track The Hand That Feeds and you’ll hear plenty of power chords.
Throw some overdrive on and layer them under the heavy synths and they sound fantastic.