Nine Inch Nails ushers in 'Year Zero'

By Wayne Utterback for The Daily Egyptian on April 18, 2007

Over the last 18 years, Nine Inch Nails front man has seemingly been focused on battling his own demons, but on NIN's latest album "Year Zero" he's looking to battle the world.

Lyrically and musically, Nine Inch Nails has veered off the well worn path of albums that came before.

Like the stories of 1984 and the Matrix, "Year Zero" depicts a world set in 2022 where surveillance, religion and patriotism have become law. Through each song, he assumes different sides of the conflict. The result is better lyrical content than what has become the Nine Inch Nails norm. It's intriguing and refreshing to hear Trent Reznor embracing the stage he has long been on to say something on the state of the world.

The music is excellent on "Year Zero." It's set on a digital soundscape that perfectly fits the lyrics of the album. It's dark, dense and loaded with samples and sounds that muddle together in the best of ways.

The single "Survivalism" is a warped buzzing that explodes into a growling chorus "I got my propaganda, I got revisionism/ I got my violence in high def ultra-realism/All part of this great nation/ I got my fist, I got my plan, I got survivalism." It's a shout along chorus and everything in the song is frenetic and high energy.

"The Good Soldier" is a brooding, yet groove filled, song about a soldier trying to justify his own actions and his reasons for doing what he must. The bass has a similar feel to that of "Only" from "With Teeth," its immensely catchy.

The doom and gloom of "Meet Your Master" and the densely layered instrumentation helps the song be one of the strongest on the record. Reznor feels at home amid a mixture of heavy distortion, samples of shattered electronica and pulse-pounding drums.

Speaking of those drums and to go off on an amusing side note, the intro beats from "Capital G" sound like they could be from Tears for Fears' "Everybody Wants to Rule the World." Perhaps this a dark hint at an overly-controlling government? You be the judge. Also, "The Beginning of the End" starts off like "My Sharona" by the Knack, though it's hard to see a link there. Both songs are still a great listen.

"Year Zero" is still quite a minimalistic record. Take "God Given," where a sparse drum beat and some sounds here and there back Reznor's vocals about the "chosen ones" who will live long after the world has ended. Then there is the quiet spoken word of "Zero-Sum" interspersed with a hooky chorus where Reznor sings "Shame on us, doomed from the start/May God have mercy on our dirty little hearts/ shame on us for all we have done/And all we ever were, just zeroes and ones."

For the fans of Nine Inch Nails who adored "Hurt" and "Closer," this is not the Nine Inch Nails they once knew. Instead, it's a newly-envisioned mass of loud, angry songs that may not change the world, but speak without fear of judgment.

Look out world, "Year Zero" is upon us.

Transcribed by Lt. Randazzo

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