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Year Zero

Year Zero

4.6 25
by Nine Inch Nails

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Nine Inch Nails' 2007 release Year Zero will undoubtedly go down in rock history for the way the recording was marketed before its release. It may mark the first time that the advance strategy -- conceived of and executed, for the most part, by NIN auteur Trent Reznor himself with 42 Entertainment -- became part and parcel of the edifice that is the album's


Nine Inch Nails' 2007 release Year Zero will undoubtedly go down in rock history for the way the recording was marketed before its release. It may mark the first time that the advance strategy -- conceived of and executed, for the most part, by NIN auteur Trent Reznor himself with 42 Entertainment -- became part and parcel of the edifice that is the album's concept: an alternate reality game and a possible film project that lasts three years in total make up the rest. Months before the recording's actual issue date, T-shirts appeared with highlighted letters in code that spelled out "I Am Trying To Believe." Hip fans added a dotcom to the words and found a website discussing "The Presence," a shadowy four-fingered hand on the set's cover that appears throughout the booklet, in web discussions of the set, and references to the drug "Parepin," which was allegedly introduced into the water supplies of large cities to make them safe against bio-terror yet induced mass hallucinations as a side effect. There were other websites as well which described the "Church of Plano," the confessions of a government murderer for hire, and more, as well as a phone number that played the spooky beginning of the track "Survivalism." There were several thumb drives placed strategically in bathrooms of NIN concerts around the world that contained entire tracks from the album. What's more, this guerilla "marketing" campaign has not been commented on by Reznor except to say that it is not marketing, but part of the concept of Year Zero itself and not meant to induce consumers to buy the record. Right. Given this ambitious schemata for Year Zero's release along with the concept -- a dystopian, paranoid, angry and schizophrenic look at life in the United States circa 2022 -- it is the music contained on the disc and only the music that is the bellwether of whether or not the ambition and effort were worth it. Year Zero comes virtually on the heels of 2005's With Teeth, and is a virtual sprint for Reznor who is known to take notoriously long breaks between recordings. A large portion of the album's rough tracks were recorded with a laptop setup while on tour, and it feels like it. There are hidden sounds, textures, shadings, passages, and more in virtually every cut where heavy metal, industrial , ambient, hip-hop, post-futurist balladry and strings rub up against each other and punch one another in a glorious rawk din. Melodies are asserted and turned inside out, added onto with other segments, and either returned to or not. And yet, the sound of Year Zero is cohesive, adventurous, full of dynamics, tension and character. The songs sound like songs. There are discernible hooks in "The Beginning of the End," "Survivalism," "The Greater Good," and the utterly moving and brilliant "Zero-Sum," which closes the disc. While many of the Nine Inch Nails recordings after Downward Spiral relied on sheer force to bludgeon listeners into submission, the atmospheres on Year Zero are far more seductive and and inviting. This doesn't mean there isn't a powerful blend of electronics and in-the-red vanguard rock, along with mutant science-fiction funk, from the opening "Hyperpower!" and "The Beginning of the End," where guitars squall against glitches, beeps, pops, and blotches of blurry sonic attacks. Percussion looms large, distorted, organic, looped, screwed, spindled and broken. It's as if Reznor spent some real time listening to the Hank Shocklee and the Bomb Squad, Public Enemy's sound architects for inspiration. His notion of the same doesn't borrow from them so much as extrapolate and shove to the margin the idea of sound as the driving force that carries a song's structure, and not vice-versa: check "Survivalism" and "Me, I'm Not." It comes down to something both prophetic and age old: Year Zero is an album that more accurately reflects its time period than any other in the pop pantheon. Its paranoia and rage are well founded by the lack of choices. Near the end of "The Good Soldier," Reznor's protagonist emerges shattered and bewildered by the bloodshed in all this world and his personal one intones: "No one's even sure/What we're fighting for/Or who we even are anymore/I feel/so far away...." In the faux-hip-hop funky rock in "Capital G" amid the scree and feedback, this character with his ragged singsong rap offers: "Well I used to stand for something/But forgot what that could be/there's a lot of me inside you/maybe you're afraid to see/Well I used to stand for something/Now I'm on my hands and knees/Traded in my god for this one/signs his name with a capital 'G'," while a horn section bleats and burns, treated and mutilated by bleeps and glitches with a deep, scathing bassline. In the universe of Year Zero, apathy, though desired, is never enough. This is portrayed in "My Violent Heart" and "The Warning," sonically as well as lyrically. In the latter track, beats shift with huge electronic and guitar drones, pushed by the confounded emotion inherent in the lyric to the place of the apocalyptic entrance of the "presence" coming down from the sky -- is it an hallucination, an actual vision of retribution, or willful destruction by the protagonist? -- ."...We've been watching you with all of our eyes/And what you seem to value most/so much potential/or so we used to say/your greed, self-importance, and your arrogance...your time is ticking away." The burning electronic funk in "God Given" reveals the urgency of a situation with no choices but to look straight in front of you." Apocalypse and some frightening future of absolute control have been seeded and watered in the present day, from one American generation to the next as societal disintegration has resulted in the willful acquiescing of freedom, all done to monster beats, scratches, chants and completely sick rock & roll freak-out. You can find the tension whipped to frenzy pitch in "Meet Your Master," where the new boss is some grainy reality that acquits no one, offers no mercy, and where forgiveness is a concept rather than a definition of anything real. In the bass throb and guitar caterwaul in the middle, Reznor dispassionately intones, "come on down down, come on down, come on down..." It's echoed endlessly as layers of noise and feedback assert themselves over the shuffling bomb of the bass loop. What all this schizophrenic fright, political and cultural nausea and social paranoia add up to is a future of no choices because those choices were all pissed away in our gluttonous use of the environment, of other societies for our own purposes and sheer hedonism. The strange sound of marimbas and vibraphones slip ethereally from one song to the next, as if to belie the absence something that was; it has been placed under erasure; it's a collective past whose trace is barely recognizable in the future of no choice "freedom." Year Zero is the finest Nine Inch Nails recording since Downward Spiral. Its songs are memorable, beautifully constructed and articulated. Reznor's manner of writing on a laptop and recording as he went on the road was beneficial in that it provided a larger context for his lyric ideas as they matched up to the splatter and crash of his musical ones. This is Reznor's least "personal" album," and hence it becomes his most personal; because as his vision widens to embrace an entire generation inside the conceptual reality of Year Zero and "The Presence," he embraces the things he dreads, fears and bristles at most with complete conviction -- even if that conviction is rooted at times in irony (and thank goodness for that). Certainly the album is bleak and doesn't make for bland entertainment, but then, his records never do. This one is as fully realized as a rock & roll album for the post-9/11 world can be, even if its totality is not held in the zeros and ones of binary code, but in extraneous web sites and alternate reality gamesmanship: in other words, the music stands on its own no matter what else accompanies it. Year Zero is bloodied but unbowed rock with a capital "R"; it's a serious and marginal pop treatise on the lack of political and social awareness inherent in the current and perhaps near future culture. It reveals in song and sound the helplessness bred in the individual's eminent collision and collusion with a perceived enemy. It becomes a kind of manifesto, a Jeremiad prophecy of what may arrive, however metaphorically, if these shadows do not change. It's brilliant, disturbing, necessary.

Editorial Reviews

Rolling Stone - Rob Sheffield
[Reznor's] strongest, weirdest and most complex record since The Downward Spiral.

Product Details

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Nine Inch Nails   Primary Artist
Josh Freese   Drums
Trent Reznor   Track Performer
Saul Williams   Background Vocals
Matt Demeritt   Tenor Saxophone
Geoffrey Gallegos   Baritone Saxophone
Elizabeth Lea   Trombone

Technical Credits

Alan Moulder   Engineer
Trent Reznor   Composer,Producer,Engineer,Art Direction,Audio Production
Atticus Ross   Producer,Engineer,Audio Production
Doug Trantow   Engineer
Forty-Two   Enhanced Recording
Rob Sheridan   Art Direction
Sean Stewart   Enhanced Recording
Brett Bachemin   Engineer
Susan Bonds   Enhanced Recording
Jeff Gallegos   Brass Arrangment,Wind Arrangements
Hydraulx   Contributor
Elan Lee   Enhanced Recording
Alex Lieu   Enhanced Recording
Johnny Rodriguez   Enhanced Recording
Matthew Santoro   Art Direction
Jordan Weisman   Enhanced Recording
Alan Mason   Engineer

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Year Zero 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am so glad I didn't have to wait four or more years for another NIN release. This work is brilliant.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a good album in a lot of ways and I think it gets better as it goes on. I don't want to be one of these people who have to compare new albums to older albums but on that note, this album doesn't seem to do as much for me as the previous ones. On the other hand it's definately not a quote unquote "return to form" "a term I am getting increasingly sick of hearing in these reviews." It sounds nothing like any other NIN release except in a few places. The extremely underrated With_Teeth that everyone is so fond of bashing has more elements of older sounds. And if I may say "on a side note", With_Teeth is the first NIN album of a whole new Trent so you kind of have to put that into perspective and you may find that the album does grow on you over time. People have such a high standard with NIN that if it's anything short of a masterpiece "which Trent never claimed it to be btw" then its just not good. But that's sheep for ya. "If you're one of those people who listen to it twice and decide you are not a fan you will never like it." I really liked Year Zero initially but the more I have listened I am finding that it's not his best work. Not that it has to be. It's a step in a new direction which is good. BUT...I hate to say it but sometimes I feel like he made the album to please the fairweather fans "who can't get past the first three albums." The whinies who weren't quite satisfied with his last album or so because they weren't everything PHM and TDS were. It's almost like what U2 did with All That You Can't Leave Behind but in a slightly different way. There are some sweet tracks here: Vessel, Me, I'm Not, My Violent Heart.. a lot of the second half. But I just don't find myself throwing it in the player as often. Like once you've heard it you've heard it. I'm not really finding a lot of new stuff that I haven't heard before "ie. I can still put The Fragile on and hear new things and I've been a fan for years". So yes, some say its a masterpiece, "some even want to throw the cliche 'return to form' around because they can't come up with more intelligent things to say", some say its crap. I would say neither. Good, not his best, not The Fragile by a long shot, but it doesn't have to be. [I think he can do better.] Each album is what it is and that's the whole beauty of it. I like the fun chaotic post-apocalyptic dancey sounds. I respect his beliefs "not that I agree with it all but who does" and all that he is trying to do-I won't take that away from him. And I like the whole futureshock concept. I'm just saying it's not the extravagant return to a previous sound that people are saying. But why should you have to do that to get people to like you're music. "ie. the way the new Pearl Jam cd was "described" before everyone ate it up." I would say he made With_Teeth for the real fans. Year Zero on the other hand is not necessarily for me but I like it all.
Guest More than 1 year ago
For the past week this is all I've been able to listen to...I can't get enough of it. However, the summary/review is, as far as I can tell, wrong. It isn't about a game, it's about the end of the world. 2022. BUY THIS ALBUM!!! DO YOUR RESEARCH!!! NINWIKI Information is _addictive
Guest More than 1 year ago
I may be in the minority with a lot of the die hard NIN fans, but after running through this album 3 times on the day I purchased it, from top to bottom this is the best work Trent has released. Every song seems to have a life of it's own and actually does a good job of telling the story of the "Presence". Stand outs for me included "Capital G", "The Good Soldier", and "Zero Sum". Be forewarned even with the heavy music and industrial sounds some of the songs do take a somewhat pop approach in the way their built. While that would detract from the content in some people's eyes Trent manages to write a song that could legitimately cross over into pop and still get a message across (which has been rare recently). As the review from All Music Guide suggests "Year Zero" will if for nothing else be remembered (along with it's sequels) for the marketing campaign that led this album, but musically this album should receive just as high praise.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A fluidly themed album that makes a statement and is soothing to the years. That is what a customer gets when they listen to "Year Zero." The music is amazing as Reznor again displays his wonderful talent of ambient noise mixed with commonplace instruments. The lyrics talk about a world not different from our own or a future that is not too hard to relate to. Reznor speaks through his songs with tracks like "Zero Sum" and "In this twilight."
Guest More than 1 year ago
This cd rocks! Go buy it now or else. Plus, the cd itself changes color when you touch it. I looked for weeks for my cd in my cd wallet just because it was a different color than when I originally purchased it. Pretty trippy.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Absolute genius! Trent Reznor never disappoints. Year Zero is an absolute masterpiece, beginning to end. Trent continues to produce powerful works of art that kick the music world right in the chest. It the best feeling in the world to be able to trust in an artist, and know that each and every release is nothing short of genius. It is evident, the minute you listen to Year Zero, that the amount of time, effort and heart that went into it, was enormous. Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails always add a fresh, new, unique and powerful element to today's music. While there are some quality artists out there, there is also a large quantity of recycled crap. You never know what you are going to get, from one cd to the next. With Trent Reznor, you do know. You know you are going to get a quality, mind blowing work of art. Thank you Trent and please don't ever stop.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm the last person you'd probably ever expect to listen to Nine Inch Nails but I heard this CD at work after hours from a co-worker and i must admit, its something I've never heard before and I actually like this cd. Pretty neat.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Remarkable album.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As a long time NIN fan, my review might seem a bit biased, but my expectations for this album were actually a bit low after listening to the good, but disappointing "With Teeth" album. However, the thought that went into the album and especially the sound in "Year Zero" just absolutely blew me away. The concept of the album takes place fifteen years in the future, and to give a basic summary, the world has gone to hell (look for Year Zero information online to see the full story). The concept might seem like a little much for an album, but Trent Reznor pulls it off beautifully. The aggression that was missing in the last album is back in full force here. In fact, to the average mainstream fan, this album will be far too noisy for them. But if you don't mind noisy, then this album is the one for you. So, in conclusion, I have been a Nine Inch Nails fan for about six years now, but I think Year Zero may be my favorite album. Some people complain that this album doesn't have as much of a personal emotional impact as say "Downward Spiral", but those people are completely missing the point of this album. This is the first album in a long time in which I'm able to listen to the entire CD from start to finish, without skipping a single track. I listened to the album once, and since then, I have not been able to stop listening to it. It's that good. My personal top three favorite songs on the album: Meet Your Master, God Given, and Vessel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ok so "With Teeth" was ok but definetly not my favorite, i wouldnt say i lost faith in trent but i was kinda worried. Of course i bought "Year Zero" the day it came out and poped it in my cd player in my car and all that came out of my mouth was DAMN!!! Trent is back and better than ever. cant wait for the tour. If your a nails fan you will love this cd. GO GET IT!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Well I've been listening to this cd, all the way though over and over again, and It's one of the greatest NIN cds ever, although in my opinion the politics of the CD are kind of extreme,I especially enjoy the songs Zero-Sum and the Warning, It seems like this cd Trent has integrated more piano than his previos cds, also it sounds like the guy from TV on the Radio makes an apearance in Zer-Sum, Like most of the NIN albums this one is best enjoyed in a drugged state of mind listening to the whole cd
Guest More than 1 year ago
To start, I only recently have gotten into NIN, but I personally think that "Pretty Hate Machine" is Trent's best. But following very closely are "The Fragile" and "Year Zero." Personally, I love the idea for Trent's new record. The lyrics and sounds almost read like a story about the government and how people put so much faith in this power that it would be so easy for them to take control of everything. And I'm not quite sure if it was a marketing scheem, or if Trent really believed his lyrics, but either way, this is nothing short of a masterpiece. It's a nice change to sing about something other than ME, ME, ME "which most bands do". His new songs talk alot more about society as a whole. And personally, I liked "With Teeth". It wasn't the best, and it wasn't the worst. "Year Zero" is a great buy for anyone who enjoys intelligent music. Go buy it today.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really liked this record, it took some time to warm up to it at first - but then i couldnt stop listening it to. God Given is my fav and Meet your Master is just kick ass when it breaks into loud noise and crazy almost computer sounding effects. From what i know HBO is making a series based on the End of the World theme to the record and Trent will help creat the project. So i am looking forward to that.
Guest More than 1 year ago
"It the best feeling in the world to be able to trust in an artist..." Wow, that is a crazy thought! Trent is not a god. It is only music, nothing more. Crawl out from under those CDs and DVDs and join the real world. Trent succeeds at one thing and that is marketing skills. This album is a marketing scheme to play into peoples paranoia. The whole thing sounds rather sick to me.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I learned of Year Zero's impending release much in the way that other fans do: word of mouth, magazine articles, web announcements, etc. I read a couple of magazine reviews. I hopped from web page to web page in order to discover what on earth was the deal with all those odd-looking web pages and links of varying obscurity associated with the forthcoming album. And then the day arrived. Some friends had heard it and asked me if I had picked up my copy yet, and what did I think about the buildup surrounding it? Frankly, it was confusing and a little off-putting at first. And then I took for what it may have been intended a mixture of clever marketing, entertainment, and a thought-provoking bit of art. Especially for one who both enjoys this genre of music and isn't bothered by a little conspiracy theory. The experience as a whole began a little harshly for me. For the casual listener and those otherwise unprepared, both the sonic genesis of the album and the alternate reality game attached to it can be somewhat overwhelming. Yet it ended quickly. Once I was able to sit down and listen to the album, it sucked me in every bit as powerfully as my other favorite NIN albums. It became readily apparent that a decent amount of it was born on a laptop, but this fact never bothered me. I found this album to be every bit as magnetic, visceral and infectious as your general NIN canon albums. If you enjoy being absorbed and sometimes a little shocked by strangely absorbing walls of sound with a compelling and original story behind them, maybe this one's for you. So I was surprised and yet not all at the same time.
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