Nine Inch Nails - Year Zero
Release Date: April 17, 2007
Record Label: Interscope/Nothing
According to Trent Reznor, the earth is indeed a cold dead place. At least, that’s his vision on his latest studio album, the highly conceptual Year Zero. After 2005’s largely mediocre and, at times, boring release, With Teeth, Reznor decidedly amped up Zero’s creativity, telling of a world 15 years from now under fanatical religious and governmental control. To fully bring this conception to life, Reznor and company took the viral marketing route, creating multiple websites to bring Year Zero to life (for complete knowledge on this, click here). Thankfully, you don’t have to be obsessing over each website and clue to enjoy this album.
Vocally, Reznor is still as sharp and authoritative as ever. His whisper-to-scream vocals are the apex of many tracks and powerfully drive home the point he is making. Lyrically, Reznor touches on many topics, such as a soldier trying to convince himself that his actions are just, apathy on the war, government propaganda, totalitarianism, and religious struggles. Musically, he takes what he built on previous records and adds more meat to them. The drums hit harder and last longer, as shown on the anthemic instrumental opener, “Hyperpower!” Reznor’s use of each musical machine is more chaotic than the last few efforts, each auditory assault is carefully constructed, as the softer parts on a track hit just as hard as the loudest parts on the album (and in some cases, even harder), as the haunting piano interlude of “Another Version Of The Truth” proves.
“Survivalism” hits you like a ton of bricks with its riotous noise, while “Vessel” displays a fine balance of loud fuzz and throbbing notes as Reznor’s voice hits like a falling bomb. “Me, I’m Not” is a looping track that ticks and lingers in your cerebellum for hours. “Capital G” features chunky industrial drumming and a swooping electronica vibe throughout. “Meet Your Master” is a thick track laced with needling computer noises, while “The Great Destroyer” welcomes you with menacing guitar riff and Reznor’s quiet yet intense vocals reminding you that he is “the great destroyer” as the end of the track goes into a schizophrenic nervous breakdown of noises and instruments. “Zero-Sum” beautifully closes out the album with the intricate piano keys playing behind a fuzzed out noise and Reznor’s terrifying whisper. It’s a moody doomsday song in the form of a ballad, where Reznor hopes that God will have mercy on us all, yet Reznor is not afraid of the end, rather it seems like an embrace.
Year Zero marks a return back to form for Trent Reznor. While With Teeth wallowed in repetition and Reznor trying to regain the adoration of the MTV generation, Year Zero doesn’t give a damn on what outsiders think. Back is the brutality and despair that Nine Inch Nails’ fans have come to love, as Year Zero is the best work Reznor has done in nearly 10 years. Reznor’s recurring themes of torment, rage, addiction, and authority are very much still alive in each song, but the construction and use of each theme is different this time around: it’s not his downward spiral, rather it’s the World’s downward spiral.
Great album and review, although you were a tad bit harsh on [With_Teeth]. Go pick this album up if you are a fan over rock and elctronica.
Agreed. I love nearly every second of With Teeth and don't really see why you call it repetitive or mediocre. Anyways, I've only really listened to the first half of the record, but I already think it kills.