Year Zero (Review)

Zero Adds Up

By Darryl Sterdan for Jam! Showbiz on April 16, 2007

An Orwellian future. A dystopian society. Drugged drinking water. A pacified populace. War in the name of religion. Imminent apocalypse. The hand of God. The extinction of the human race. And you thought Nine Inch Nails albums couldn't get much creepier and weirder.

Turns out NiN mastermind Trent Reznor was just getting warmed up on lighthearted fare like The Downward Spiral and With Teeth. Now that he's got that frivolity out of his system -- along with his assorted drug and alcohol addictions -- the newly buff and rejuvenated rocker is getting down to business. Kicking it up a notch. And making the most ambitious, politicized and powerful album of his career.

Year Zero, the fifth studio effort from the pioneering industrial-rock icon, is a full-length concept disc set in the dark days of 2022. If you want the whole complex narrative, consult the Internet, where it has been doled out over several weeks via an ingenious and intricate campaign of hidden websites and cryptic e-mails ("I'm drinking the water. So should you"). If you want the highlights -- and really, that's all you need -- you'll get them from titles like The Beginning of the End and The Great Destroyer, and song lyrics like "You've become a virus that's eaten up its host" and "May God have mercy on our dirty little hearts." Basically, it's the end of the world as we know it -- and Reznor feels fine.

Thankfully, what he doesn't feel is the burning need to reinvent his musical style. So Year Zero, for all its grand designs and contemporary political metaphors ("My God ... signs his name with a capital G") sounds pretty much like you'd expect a Nine Inch Nails disc to sound. There are the thwacking industrial beats and fuzzy basslines. The buzzsaw power chords and squealing guitar licks. The ominously funky grooves and squishy synths. The glitchy loops and noisy textures. The sonic freakouts and grand piano interludes. The creepy whispering and primal screaming. The spooky quiet verses and massively heavy choruses.

OK, there are a few new touches. Vessel's funky groove and woozy "Oh my God" chorus suggest a mutated Talking Heads. The closing prayer Zero Sum has gospel piano overtones. Capital G sports a horn section. A few cuts have a hip-hoppy bounce in their step. And nearly all of them are just a little leaner and more focused than Reznor has been in the past. That's probably another side-effect of his newer, healthier lifestyle.

Either that or it's something in the water. And if it is, we suggest you drink it.

Track Listing:

1. Hyperpower!
2. The Beginning Of The End
3. Survivalism
4. The Good Soldier
5. Vessel
6. Me, I'm Not
7. Capital G
8. My Violent Heart
9. The Warning
10. God Given
11. Meet Your Master
12. The Greater Good
13. The Great Destroyer
14. Another Version Of The Truth
15. In This Twilight
16. Zero-Sum

Transcribed by JessicaSarahS

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