The speaker is Trent Reznor, the front man for the band Nine Inch Nails, and he was battling an alcohol or drug addiction at the time the album this track is on. The audience for this track is anybody that is a fan of hard rock or industrial music. The tone of the song is bleak, and in it Trent Reznor is talking about his battle with addiction. There is not a specific setting given to the song.
The song Ruiner is a part of a larger narrative in which Trent Reznor is telling a story about his addiction, and in Ruiner he is talking about his addiction ruins everything and everyone. He starts it off by asking a couple of questions and doubting the lies he has told himself, “You had all of them on your side didn’t you? / You believe in all your lies didn’t you?” In the next line, “The ruiner’s got a lot to prove he’s got nothing to lose and now he / Made you believe” he is talking about how he has nothing to lose when he is in the depths of the addiction. With the next line “The ruiner’s your only friend well he’s the living end to the cattle / he deceives” he is talking about how addiction is the end of all living things, and that it is always going to be there until the end. The next lines “The raping of the innocent you know the ruiner ruins everything he / Sees” Trent is talking about how addiction can take over anybody at any time, and it ruins everything and everyone.
The next line “Now the only pure thing left in my fucking world is wearing your disease” is Trent admitting that he has a problem, and that it is the only thing he considers pure any more. The next stanza – the chorus – where he questions “How did you get so big? / How did you get so strong? / How did you get so hard? / How did you get so long?” This is his way of asking how did his addiction get so crippling, and so out of control. “You had to give them all a sign, didn’t you? / You had to covet what was mine, didn’t you?” in these lines he is asking his addiction why it had to come out, and then he is following that up with accusing his addiction of taking what is his.
“The ruiner’s a collector he’s an infector serving his shit to his flies / Maybe there will come a day when those that you keep blind will / Suddenly realize” in the first line he is explaining that he is feeding his addiction, and it’s bringing nothing but pain to him. The second line is him hoping that he will be able to see past his addiction, and get over it. “Maybe it’s a part of me you took to a place I hoped it would never go / And maybe that fucked me up much more than you’ll ever know” In the first line he is saying that his addiction took him to a really bad place. The following line is talking about how the addiction really messed him up, on top of messing up a lot of his personal life. The chorus repeats again, and he is questioning just how massive the addiction has gotten. The next lines “What you gave to me / My perfect ring of scars” is him talking about how all he has left due to his addiction is scars. The last part of the song “You know I can see what you really are / You didn’t hurt me nothing can hurt me / You didn’t hurt me nothing can stop me now” is Trent declaring his victory of over the addiction, and saying that he can’t be stopped from moving on from this point.
I can identify with this song not because of the addiction, but because there have been a few times in life where I have felt like I was a “Ruiner”. I have made some bad calls, and made some bad choices which led to the ruination of whatever had been going on at the time. I had a lot missteps, and did some things that ultimately were not good. For the longest time I thought that the scars leftover from those situations would be what defines me. Just like Trent Reznor, I survived the ordeals that those negative situations and I have moved on from them. I did not really pick this song, I just decided to listen to my collection of Nine Inch Nails albums while working on this assignment. I had my streaming service set to shuffle under Nine Inch Nails, and this was the second song to start playing, after an instrumental called The Frail.