Trent Reznor and his talented croneys serve up their vision of the gift of apocalypse to a dystopian world, circa 2022. Written in 2007, Year Zero is in direct response to the drastic mishandling of the United States under the George W. Bush administration. It’s a fascinating look at what still could be – only time will tell.
Year Zero is, for me, the quintessential Nine Inch Nails record. At 16 tracks and over an hour long, it’s a behemoth – though, by Reznor standards, it’s no Fragile. Supposedly, a sci-fi mini-series, one that has been rumored for years in association with HBO, is still in the works based on the album, but may never see the light of day.
It’s sad too, because this album is ideal for that.
Reznor is known for large amounts of time in between albums. The Downward Spiral was released in ’94, The Fragile not until ’99, and then With Teeth in 2005. Just two years after With Teeth came Year Zero.
With Teeth seemed to be more… radio-friendly. Not to say that’s a bad thing – it’s always a good thing to sell a couple records. But it didn’t have the same NIN flair or panache, and it is for that reason I think that record is their weakest.
Meanwhile, Year Zero is arguably their best. Some of the best glitchy, complex fuzz blobs of noise.
“Hyperpower!” sets the stage for this alternate reality and it only gets better from there. Reznor rips off 3, 4, 5 in a row with each seemingly attempting to one-up the last. If you only give one tune a listen to get an idea of what Year Zero is all about, let it be “The Great Destroyer” because of its driving guitar work early that quickly leads to an audible explosion. Earth-shattering.
To be true, there’s not a bad tune on here, with the exception of “In This Twilight” – ironically, one of the last songs they played each night on their final tours. The visuals for this were exceptional – just not the music accompanying it (for me, anyway).
I had the privilege of seeing Nine Inch Nails on the “Lights in the Sky” tour in October of 2008. That tour ruined all live events for me (with the exception of Radiohead – the only band I listen to that has even attempted something as ambitious as the type of large-scale stage show). The dedication and attention to detail that Reznor showed to every unique aspect of his production is nothing short of astounding. Multiple on-stage screens, cameras just about everywhere, including the crowd, and one made to appear to be in the bathroom of the arena (spoiler alert: turns out it was prerecorded). It was awe-inspiring.
And here’s to hoping those How to Destroy Angels records are re-released without any lyrics.
If you do decide to check out Year Zero, read up also on the story and alternate reality game that paired the album’s release. Some next level promotion right there.
Here’s another gem from Year Zero, “The Greater Good”:
Standout tracks: “Me, I’m Not” and “The Greater Good” – but 95% of this album is golden.
Weakest track: “In This Twilight”
RIYL: Conspiracy theories, The “Fragile guitar”.