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Since the overwhelming success of Green Day’s ‘American Idiot,’ bands of all sounds and styles have decided to take a stab at a concept album, with varying levels of success. Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Year Zero’ joins the ranks of the more successful concepts.
The exact details of the concept aren’t completely clear from just listening to the album (apparently, there are all kinds of clues through virtual trails online for fans to figure out exactly what the whole thing’s about) but it definitely has something to do with militant religious and government organizations, alien invasions and the end of the world. This probably doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone familiar with Nine Inch Nails.
This may be the tightest album effort that Trent Reznor has put forth under the Nine Inch Nails name so far. The entire thing flows like one big song broken up into 16 sections. This causes a lot of it to sound the same, but also makes it extremely listenable.
It starts with some catchier vocal stylings and instrumental riffs. After the seventh track, ‘Capital G’ (the only truly annoying song, yet heavily featured on the band’s Web site), Reznor spends the middle of the project creating some amazing experimental musical landscapes with what seems to be a mix of bass, guitar, keyboards and turntables.
In the following track, ‘The Warning,’ the same funky, inarguably Reznor-esque riff is played on several instruments (or perhaps a keyboard with multiple sound effects) while the lyrics say that ‘Some say it was a warning, some say it’s a sign / I was standing right there when it came down from the sky,’ and end with a repeated warning that ‘Your time is ticking away.’ All this is laid on top of electronic rhythms with bursts of electronic noise.
The electronic experimentation crescendos on the 11th track, ‘Meet Your Master,’ before the album winds down. Although there are a few tracks that aren’t especially interesting, the entire project flows really well.
One cool gimmick is a message on the back of the CD case: ‘USBM WARNING: Consuming or spreading this material may be deemed subversive by the United States Bureau Of Morality. If you or someone you know has engaged in subversive acts or thoughts, call: 1-866-445-6580. BE A PATRIOT – BE AN INFORMER!’
A call to the number results in a message reminiscent of ‘1984.’
This ambitious project may be Nine Inch Nails’ masterpiece. It has the ambiguous theme and mystery of a great concept album, tied together by carefully produced tracks throughout the entirety of the project.
Rating: 4/5

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