Reznor’s dismal content on ‘Year Zero’ shines

Ally Melling

Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor has finally broken the notorious streak of five-year interludes between albums that has held routine for nearly 20 years.

The father of industrial music’s latest, Year Zero, is not only a redemption after 2005’s aimless With Teeth but the first Nine Inch Nails album to center on a theme.

All the songs revolve around a bleak vision of America in the near future, where the forced religion and greed of the government has brought the country near apocalypse.

To accompany this concept album, Reznor has created a series of secret Web sites from Year Zero track titles. One site presents faux newspaper articles and research about Parepin, a chemical the government has put into the water system supposedly to bodily defend against a biological terrorist attack. But what Parepin really does is cause Americans to hallucinate – for instance, see the hand of God reach down onto their windshields (hence the album cover).

The music of Year Zero is also brilliantly orchestrated, creating Nine Inch Nails’ most beat-driven, computerized, electronic album yet.

“HYPERPOWER!” opens the album with chaos, building guitar on militaristic shouting and drumming.

Fresh tracks such as “Me, I’m Not,” “The Great Destroyer” and “My Violent Heart” are amazing and employ more great rhythms and thumping bass than many rap albums.

Songs such as “The Beginning of the End” and the first single, “Survivalism,” channel an upbeat sound reminiscent of With Teeth, while “The Greater Good” revisits the sound of 2001’s The Fragile.

“God Given” and “Vessel” are highly industrial but suffer from weak choruses and disappointing lyrics such as, “Come on, sing along, everybody now.”

“The Good Soldier” is melodic, and “Another Version of the Truth” gives the listener a breather with haunting piano work akin to the “Still” side of 2002’s And All That Could Have Been.

Nine Inch Nails fans and general rockers: There is not going to be another The Downward Spiral – get over it and embrace the great elements of each new sound. Reznor has always evolved, and we listeners are better for it. If he hadn’t, we would have missed out on Year Zero and the impressive, dismal picture it paints for the senses.

Contact ALL correspondent Ally Melling at [email protected].