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.
Review Summary: Trent Reznor makes an easily digestible album with hooks galore, heart, and loads of what we have come to expect from NIN. And he does it better then he has in nearly 15 years. Angst? What angst, this is fun, interesting, dark, and entertaining.It is hard to believe Trent Reznor has been doing this nearly 20 years. Between NIN's first full length release in 1989, Pretty Hate Machine, numerous albums of odds and ends, live performances, and the explosion of the now classic "The Downward Spiral" LP, Reznor has dazzled us with his musical brilliance, annoyed us with his angst, surprised us with his humanity, and shocked us with his dark vision.
If you miss the elaborate conspiracy theories of The X-Files, you’ll love Nine Inch Nails’ Year Zero. A sci-fi concept album whose end-of-days, paranoia-drenched story line has been disseminated via the Internet, it will appeal to every geek with Fox Mulder’s ”I Want to Believe” poster on their bedroom wall. (In fact, a key lyric finds NIN majordomo Trent Reznor proclaiming, ”I am trying to believe.”) The good news is, it’s entirely possible — maybe even advisable — to enjoy Year Zero without trolling dozens of kooky websites.
Blessed with a mindset that views suffering as the human default mode, Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor belatedly turns his attention to the concept album. The 16 songs are threaded together by a storyline set in the year "0000", when - well, what else? - the US-dominated world has got itself into an ecological and political pickle. It's nearly a sci-fi apocalypse too far, this symphony of distortion and tightly wedged electronic layers, but there are inventive elements (guitars have mainly been edged out by laptops).
Trent Reznor obviously means his fifth Nine Inch Nails album to be a Children of Men-style vision of a not-too-distant future where precious little separates Georges Orwell and Bush. The back cover carries a sticker from the "Bureau of Morality," encouraging the citizenry to "Be a patriot. Be an informer!" The songs, meanwhile, are typically Reznorian rays of sunshine like "My Violent Heart" and "The Great Destroyer." Party! Besides a batch of solid singles – electro-punk death march "Survivalism," fiendishly swinging "Capital G" – every so often Year Zero devolves into a feverish barrage of squelches and squalls that comes off as mood music for especially amorous androids.