Album: Year Zero
Artist: Nine Inch Nails
Label: Nothing Records (TVT/Interscope)
Year: 2007
Rating: 5/5
Summary: Sobriety paid off big time. Roger Waters would be proud.

Lyrically, Year Zero shows Trent Reznor finally turning his attention away from losing his religion. A far cry from his earlier work, with its vague musings on depression, Year Zero is a call-to-arms.

"Traded in my god for this one
He signs his name with a capital G"

To say that this concept album is epic is not an overstatement. It is set in a dystopian future where the government keeps its people docile by drugging the water supply, and elections are a thing of the past. As if that wasn't enough, Yahweh himself seems to make a much needed appearance in an attempt to warn the human race, although naturally the government that claims to be theist believes that the people are merely hallucinating.

"So much potential
Or so we used to say
Your greed, self-importance and your arrogance
You piss it all away"

Year Zero is clearly a warning about current politics and the direction they are headed in. By the time Zero-Sum finishes, you're left with the impression that the whole album was sent back in time to 2007 for the sole purpose of preventing the world it describes from coming into existence.

"Shame on us
Doomed from the start
May god have mercy
On our dirty little hearts"

Musically, with its chanting and tough beats, Year Zero sounds something like The Wall or Amused to Death remixed to sound like The Fat of the Land or Saturday Teenage Kick. The aggressive style is certainly apt for the lyrics.

Although I try to focus on the music itself rather than the marketing, it's worth noting that Trent Reznor has built a whole alternate reality game around this album, consisting mostly of web sites written by fictional characters living in the album's world. These false documents are interesting short stories in their own right, giving tantalising glimpses into the scary world of Year Zero.

The songs are also going to be made available in their original multitrack form to encourage fans to remix them. These are both good ways to build up hype and get fans involved in the album as more than just passive consumers. I just hope Trent Reznor owns the copyright to his own songs, or can at least legally do what he's doing, otherwise he could be sued by his own record label for copyright infringement.

Then again, he genuinely seems to be building some kind of army out of his fans. Maybe he plans to ask them to do more than merely buy a product...

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