Cryptic campaign boosts new Nine Inch Nails album

Originally published in CBC.CA on April 2, 2007

The buzz is building for Trent Reznor's upcoming Nine Inch Nails release, thanks to an innovative but eerie online campaign that has forced fans to piece together hints and clues about the new concept album.

Year Zero is set to hit stores April 17, but since February — when Reznor posted on his blog that he had finished work on the album — NIN fans have been engrossed in deciphering a cryptic, maze-like media campaign revealing clues about and sneak previews of the new release.

In February, some industrious fans discovered that highlighted letters on a recent NIN concert tour t-shirt spelled out the phrase "I am trying to believe."

The phrase led to one of several foreboding, sometimes puzzle-filled websites suggesting a dystopian world of the future that features a government that uses mind-control drugs, rampant bioterrorism threats and military-trained resistance fighters.

Later, reports began to surface of fans serendipitously finding USB drives in random restroom stalls during NIN concerts in Europe. The drives included digital files of tracks from the upcoming album, cryptic messages and foreboding images that must be deciphered via spectrography — all of which were quickly shared online.

Fans of the industrial, hard rock act have been tipping each other off to each new secret and discovery on blogs, message boards and other websites.

The creative promotional campaign has even won the praise of U.S. rock bible Rolling Stone, which has proclaimed the project "the most innovative promotion scheme since the leaked sex tape" and "more confusing than [TV hit] Lost."

Transcribed by Lt. Randazzo

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