Review Summary: Message to Trent: Anyone is capable of writing a politically inspired album. You are capable of writing beautiful music. Stick to what you do best!
NIN- Year Zero
Now before I begin, I should let you know that NIN has been one of my favorite bands since the age of 13, so I definitely have some bias writing this review. However, it shouldn’t stop me from tearing this album apart.
When I think of Nine Inch Nails, a few key words come to mind: angst, emotion, intensity, passion, to name a few. I see absolutely none of those on this album. I have absolutely no problem with bands adjusting their style, so long as it’s some kind of creative and musical evolution. When listening to the NIN discography between Pretty Hate Machine and The Fragile (Trent Reznor’s masterpiece IMO), one can see a definite forward progression. With each step, he takes something from the old and incorporates it into his new material, while adding new elements along the way to create his own signature style. Between 2000 and 2005 however, the progression made by Trent isn’t like anything we’ve seen in the past. Where’s the feeling? Where are the instrumental epics that Trent is known for? Where are the sound-scapes that can drive you into a schizophrenic rage or carry you into a serene dreamland? These days NIN sounds terribly uninspired.
The whole composition of this album is a complete mess. Rather than creating an album, it seems that Trent wrote a handful of songs and threw them on a CD (after all, he did write most of this CD while on tour). On The Fragile and The Downward Spiral, there are almost no silent moments. Each song carried in and out by Trent’s gift to create ambient noise.
The first track, “The Beginning of the End” doesn’t seem to really go anywhere. It starts off with some incoherent chords and a monotonous drum beat that carry it through the entirety of the track. At this point, I’m not convinced that this album is worth the hype Trent tried to stir up. By track three, “Survivalism” Trent brings back some sounds that sound like they would fit more appropriately on 1989’s Pretty Hate Machine. Unfortunately, any potential once held by this song is ruined by the incredibly annoying electric drum kit. I realize that I am a drummer, and most percussionists have an opposition to electric kits, but I really feel like it pulls away from the intensity that Reznor is known for
Another thing that bothers be about this album is the songwriting. Nearly every song follows a traditional “intro, verse, course, verse, course, outro” formula. Anyone who known anything about NIN knows that Trent is capable of writing amazing compositions, but this time around he has a blueprint that’s been duplicated for nearly every song on the album.
Now, let me give credit where credit is due. The lyrics here are well thought out.
She gave us all she had but
We went and took some more
Can't seem to shut her legs
Our mother nature is a whore
This reminds us that although, Trent has abandoned his deeply personal writing, and taken on more of a political subject matter, it’s still the same guy behind the microphone. His vocals on the other hand, although they aren’t horrible, just sound uninspiring.
My favorite track on Year Zero is by far Zero Sum. The eerie keyboards and muddled vocals at be beginning of this track really capture what Trent is capable of. When the course kicks in, one feels this kind of apocalyptic wave rolling over them. The end of this album reminds us that we’re all going to burn in hell, but for some reason there’s some light at the end of the tunnel. Classic Reznor!