Nine Inch Nails – Year Zero Review

Year Zero is strange. Like the previous album, With Teeth, it really can’t be pinned down as to what it’s supposed to sound like. This could be a good thing. Different tracks, different sounds, as well as nods to varying styles, and the audience potential broadens. And as Mr. Reznor himself said in a recent interview, he wrote a soundtrack to a movie that doesn’t exist, as this album plays like one.

Take this thought, and know that Year Zero is a concept album. Sixteen songs telling tales from various perspectives in an alternate (or perhaps not so alternate) near future. (Read: It isn’t chock full of obsessive introspections on issues of self-loathing.) Trent’s still angry, but not so much at himself as he is with the state of the world and where it could be in a manner of years. This combined with the online/real world interactivity of clues into the album’s story, and Mr. Reznor has crafted more than a new Halo to collect, but an intriguing experience.

But just what can a listener get out of this? If you miss Pretty Hate Machine bass synth and drum machine-driven grooves, you’ll find “The Good Soldier” and “Capital G” will remind you of the beginning of industrial’s popularity. Some of the dirtier work from The Downward Spiral more up your alley? Try the opener “Hyperpower!”, “Meet Your Master” or “Vessel”. The Fragile brought a different generation of NINers, “Me, I’m Not” and “Another Version Of The Truth” similarly carry that minimal atmospheric sound. With Teeth fans will like “The Beginning of the End” and the first radio single “Survivalism”. Something new? Say hello to circuit-bending glitch with “My Violent Heart” (the first track to “leak” onto the Internet), or “The Warning”. Hell, he even gets a little disco on with “God Given”.

This isn’t to say that each song can be pigeonholed into a specific NIN era. As each song phrasing passes past the speaker, one can’t help but hear the nearly twenty years of Reznor’s writing, from each of its stages, throughout. The improvement of his vocal style and range, songwriting and production, Year Zero is a more than adequate buffet to bring your dinner plate to, highlighting the distinct moments of his career.

The danger with this album is that it may not be accessible as some of NIN’s previous offerings, especially since at numerous moments things get… experimental. But, overall, Year Zero is a fairly strong album, in comparison to the past several years, and worth checking out.

Website: Nine Inch Nails

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