Friday, April 06, 2007

Album Review: Nine Inch Nails - Year Zero

As reported here yesterday, the latest effort from Nine Inch Nails, Year Zero, is streaming online. Kicking off with the drum-machine packed, apocalyptic "Hyperpower!", Trent Reznor's latest concept album delivers on the anticipation we've been expecting since the viral marketing campaign began. By the time "The Beginning of the End" takes off, the listener is enraptured. Trent Reznor is a master of using musical tools like hooks and simple rhythms to make his songs, which the more closed-minded might expect to be unlistenable, accessible. "The Good Soldier" has a repetitive bass loop that is every bit danceable over lyrics that tell the story of a soldier who appears to have just lost faith in the cause he is fighting for. And "God Given" has a trip-hop style beat and club anthem chorus DJs will be jealous of. It is this kind of signature irony, an intense conceptual experience over music that can move a body, that makes Nine Inch Nails so successful.

Key tracks on Year Zero: "My Violent Heart", an alternating down-tempo verse and smashing chorus about an uprising in the Year Zero world; "The Beginning of the End"; "Meet Your Master", noise layered over a simple rock beat topped by a sing-along chorus; and "The Great Destroyer", starting with a drumpad beat followed up with guitar power chords and the higher range of Reznor's singing, and swelling with a grimy, electro-noise assault.

It is not until after the messy climax of "The Great Destroyer" that the album takes a slower pace and moves into more ambient sound (at least as ambient as this style of industrial techno can get) to end the album. This album is what Nine Inch Nails fans expect of Trent Reznor: boundary pushing music that rocks. Under his NIN moniker, Reznor has proven that he is prolific without sacrificing quality or the cutting-edge sound he helped to popularize. Year Zero is as creative and artistic as it is listenable. A broad concept album, which Reznor has succeeded with in the past (most notably The Downward Spiral, read Any Given Tuesday's review here) Year Zero is bound to be wildly successful without jeopardizing Trent's musical integrity.

Click the album art to purchase. Year Zero officially releases April 17.

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