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Nine Inch Nails - Year Zero CD (album) cover


Nine Inch Nails


Crossover Prog

3.19 | 81 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
3 stars 'Year Zero' - Nine Inch Nails (6/10)

Known for bringing the industrial music scene (innovated by such avant-garde ensembles as Throbbing Gristle) to a wider public attention, Nine Inch Nails has received a surprising amount of acclaim for being a relatively experimental act. An artist always pushing to throw a monkey wrench in the music industry in more ways than one, 'Year Zero' came to my attention not necessarily through the music itself, but the vast concept behind the 'plot' and marketing of the release. Instead of simple promotional work, Trent Reznor dispatched an entire 'virtual reality' web quest to depict his dystopic view of the future. While the music is inconsistent to match up with the fiery concept and subject matter, there is the sense here that 'Year Zero' is a vanguard for something up-and-coming, be it musically or otherwise.

Compared with earlier opuses such as his defining 'The Downward Spiral', Trent Reznor has gone a bit heavier with 'Year Zero', a development that perfectly suits the dark subject matter of the album. Essentially, the album follows no linear narrative, but instead paints a dystopic future of a Christian fundamentalist-controlled United States, allowing the listener to fill in the blanks, as necessary. While the music always has a touch of humanity with Reznor's distinctive, angry voice, the instruments rely almost exclusively on electronic instrumentation, with scarce examples in the album being the catchy 'The Beginning Of The End' and the piano tinged 'Another Version Of The Truth'. The music is very noisy, atonal, yet surprisingly accessible for such a seemingly dense work. Songs such as 'Survivalism' may employ incredible noisy and chaotic electronics, but are catchy (albeit dark) pop songs at their core, giving Reznor the added edge and commercial appeal.

While the concept itself is grand in scope, the lyrics do seem to fall a bit short in comparison. While I have never found Trent's voice to be particularly strong (especially when compared to his potent instrumental vision), the wordplay here is simple at best, and poorly clichéd at worst. Still, some of the album's best content comes in the form of Reznor's vocal hooks, which- as previously described- do give the listener something to grasp onto from first listen onwards.

Perhaps 'Year Zero's greatest fault lies in the fact that it is a dreadfully inconsistent piece of work, although the high points do serve to make the album a worthy venture. The first three tracks (the percussive introduction 'Hyperpower!' following through to the abrasive single 'Survivalism') comprise the most memorable portion of 'Year Zero', before the album degrades into a slower, less structured and more experimental form. Other highlights include the sporadic vocal work of 'The Great Destroyer' and the gospel-tinged finale, 'Zero-Sum'.

'Year Zero' is an album that didn't match the high expectations I had placed for it following the grand marketing campaign and intriguing concept behind it, but while being inconsistent, the album is graced with a handful of great tracks that make the album a relatively good album from Nine Inch Nails.

Conor Fynes | 3/5 |


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