The Beginning of the End
Trent Reznor has seen the future. Bad news, we're fucked.
By Catherine Yates for Kerrang! on April 1, 2007
Nine Inch Nails Year Zero (Nothing/Interscope)
When Trent Reznor announced in a recent K! news story that he'd got his confidence back, few could have thought it would result in something like this. True, last month's UK NIN tour offered adrenalized proof that the old mucker could still kick it large with the best of them, but after 2005's patchy 'With Teeth' it seemed that musically, the best might have been and gone. Or, rather, it did. For a record full of fresh ideas and new perspectives, 'Year Zero' is a title well chosen. After nearly two decades building a career on tormented introspection, Reznor has turned his vitrol outwards to embrace more political concerns. The targets might be obvious- George Bush, global conflict, environmental issues and religious fundamentalism all come under fire- but the execution is not.
Sidestepping preachy sloganerring for a collection of schizophrenic lyrical mind-sets, he's created something far more sophisticated; assuming the role of a right wing bigot for 'Capital G'"s, Dubya-goading, mechanoid glam pounder; a war-weary lost soul on the deadzone lull of 'The Good Soldier'; getting a messiah complex for 'Vessel'"s electro power-grind.And while much of 'With Teeth' laboured under a mantle of uniform riff abrasion, this time he's fashioned a soundtrack full of daring imagination and musical risks. With guitars kept to a minimum, 'Year Zero' is one of the least rock things he's done-among the multi-layered textures, mind-bending sound manipulation and super dense beat booms, you're more likely to find references to Aphex Twin and Massive Attack than anything with more metallic origins. What's astonishing is how focused and heavy the whole thing sounds. The rubber room techno-pulse of 'God Given' sounds like its being discharged from a point several miles underground, while 'The Great Destroyer"s sensitive revolution anthem gets cauterized midway by an electronic ramraid bordering on the psychotic. Elsewhere, whether it's the scabrous pop of 'The Beginning of the End' or haunting strains of 'In This Twilight'- simply one of the most beautiful things NIN have ever done- you'll find examples of adventurous, accessible song writing in unexpected abundance. Even the obligatory nihilistic NIN-closer has been eschewed in favor of 'Zero-Sum', a number that offers- would you believe it- a sense of redemption among its neo-gospel overtones.
And whatever you want to make of that, what's clear is that this is not a rock record, an industrial record, or an electronic record, it's a stunning realization of the one thing Trent Reznor has always kept paramount: music. And as such it's a staggering Nine Inch Nails record. Eighteen years on he's still at it,
still convincing, still relevant- and still no-one else sounds like this.
Download: 'The Good Soldier', 'Capital G' For Fans of: Ministry, Killing Joke.
Transcribed by JessicaSarahS