Review-Year Zero


For a Free Scotland
Article I wrote that will be published in my school's paper in mid May.

Reznor's Year Zero Takes a Baby Step Back in Time

Trent Reznor, the man behind Nine Inch Nails, is renowned for producing albums at a glacial pace. In a career of close to two decades, he has produced only four full albums. Because of this, his newest effort in Year Zero is a pleasant surprise, only two years after the very popular With Teeth.

The album combines the musical styling of With Teeth with the pointed lyrics of 1994’s The Downward Spiral. The older more grating songs that characterized Reznor’s early work have been replaced with a more clear rock/industrial hybrid.

The album, and its unique viral promotion, including mysterious merchandise and hidden messages in leaked demos, envision some sort of totalitarian state in the not-so-distant-future that Reznor has imagined. The politically charged nature of this idea would seem to echo bands such as Rage Against the Machine, however Reznor is more melancholy than funneled rage.

The lyrics definitely have more of a purpose and weave a better story than With Teeth’s often hollow narration. The songs cover a variety of people in this futuristic dystopia, including soldiers in “Survivalism,” rebels in “My Violent Heart,” and the religious officials in “God Given,” culminating in the chilling final track, “Zero-Sum.”

Still, the music style of the album most closely resembles With Teeth. The grating disharmony of his earlier albums has shifted to a more mainstream industrial/rock hybrid. Background noise is much more a muted bystander than a primary instrument.

The premier song on the album is the anti-Bush “Capital G”, fusing blues-like guitars with heavy percussion and grating distortion. Many other songs emulate music structures of With Teeth’s “Only,” with drums-driven songs such as “The Beginning of the End.” The album is much slower than its predecessor, with brooding, methodical works.

Ultimately, this is a partial return to form. The cohesiveness of an alternative universe helps create a more unified album, and has improved the lyrical qualities of the album, though the musical style will divide the new fans from the older ones.