Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor has
revealed to Kerrang! that the forthcoming album ‘Year Zero‘ has a
politically-motivated concept which imagines a bleak future caused by the US
government‘s current administration.
“I felt I needed to comment on my own thoughts
on what it‘s like to be an American citizen, and hopefully find a way to do
that that doesn‘t sound preachy, bitchy or does it by name-checking George
Bush,“ explains Reznor. “I imagined what the world might be like 15 years from
now, if America continues on the path it seems to be headed on - a path of greed and self-righteousness, and
arrogance, and lack of consideration, globally for other people and ecology. “My
method of doing that was to write out an elaborate, detailed synopsis of what
this world was like,“ he adds. “What this world is like politically leading it
up to a crisis point where fingers are on the button and are on the verge of
Year Zero was recorded in Los Angeles between
September and December of last year with Reznor acting as producer in
collaboration with engineer Atticus Ross, who worked on 2005’s ‘With Teeth‘.
Reznor kept himself occupied by writing new
material in hotel rooms and on the tourbus during the 18-month tour promoting
‘With Teeth‘. At the end of the tour, he found he had amassed a collection of
songs he was happy with.
“I found a way to make it fun on tour,‘ he
explains. “It passes the time and keeps me sane. I discovered new ways to make
music that I was into. I somehow felt energised and decided to finish the
record after the tour.“
The full tracklisting for ‘Year Zero‘ is ‘Hyperpower!‘,
‘The Beginning Of The End‘, ‘Survivalism‘, ‘The Good Soldier‘, ‘Vessel‘, ‘Me, I‘m
Not‘, ‘Capital G‘, ‘My Violent Heart,‘ ‘The Warning‘, ‘God Given‘, ‘Meet Your
Master‘, ‘The Greater Good‘, ‘The Great Destroyer‘, ‘Another Version Of The
Truth‘, ‘In This Twilight‘ and ‘Zero-Sum‘.
Look out for a full Interview with Reznor in a
forthcoming issue. We’ve had a sneak preview of the album so here is our track
by track guide to ‘Year Zero’.
An instrumental opener sets a familiar tone as
distorted metal guitars churn and grind against clattering industrial beats,
building to a screaming climax.
THE BEGINNING OF THE
Any sense of ‘Year Zero‘ being a return to
tried and tested roots evaporates immediately as the first song proper reveals
a hairpin turn into blasting guitar-pop, that‘s surprisingly upbeat given its
KEY LYRIC: ‘We‘ve seen
the consequence/This is the beginning of the end...‘
The first single release and only ‘Year Zero‘
number to get a live airing during the recent UK tour, this scathing
state-of-the-world address offers the first insight into a newly-politicised
Squalling guitars and a frantic, hissing pulse
propel the song to a thumping chorus that guarantees a mass singalong at future
KEY LYRIC: ‘I got my propaganda,
I got revisionism/I got my violence in hi-def ultra-realism’
THE GOOD SOLDIER
Another departure and instant album stand-out
that pits dreamlike, hypnotic beats and lush, textured tones against a creepy
lyrical undercurrent of abstract war references. ‘Gunfire in the street, where
we used to meet...‘ croons Reznor before an achingly beautiful guitar riff
unfurls into a hazy beyond.
KEY LYRIC: ‘I am
trying to see, I am trying to believe/This is not where I should be‘
Five songs in and NIN get their groove on with
this hulking, electro-grind anthem. Effects dick, bleep and whirr over a
face-melting bassline. Delicious, deadly and heavy as fuck.
KEY LYRIC: ‘They tell
us what we can and cannot do/Same thing we‘ve heard a hundred times before‘
ME, I’M NOT
A brooding, spacey number mirroring the echo
chamber trip hop of Massive Attack brings another swift change in mood as edgy
stifled vocals muted guitar and eerie tones create a twilight zone of ominous
KEY LYRIC: ‘If I knew
back then, what I know right now‘
Black-humoured Bush-baiting rock stomper sung
from the point of view of a right wing ignoramus. ‘I‘m sick of all the haves
and the have-nots/Have some personal accountability‘ snarls Trent before an
all-singalong, dancealong chorus implants its state-ofTexas size hooks into
your head. Who says NIN can’t be fun?
KEY LYRIC: ‘I pushed
the button and elected him to office/He pushed the button and dropped the bomb‘
MY VIOLENT HEART
A tense, near-spoken verse and super-minimal backing
provide an unsettled calm before a chorus unleashes a gale-force big beat
collision, rancorous riff corrosion and the sense that somewhere in Trent
Reznor‘s studio, there‘s an effects pedal labelled ‘Maximum Pain’.
KEY LYRIC: ‘There’s
bullet holes where my compassion used to be/And there’s violence in my heart.’
There also seems to be a pedal labelled
‘Completely Fucked‘, as a renegade drum machine carpet bombs its stuttering
payload over a mangled guitar-loop that stretches twists and buckles ever
further out of recognition. Somewhat impossibly, it’s a rather jaunty, funky affair.
KEY LYRIC: ‘Your time
is tick-tick-ticking away...’
Another highlight that ditches live instrumentation
entirely in favour of mutant dancefloor muscle, as a treble vision-inducing
subsonic flattens everything in its path. Menacing, mindwarping and
KEY LYRIC: ‘No more time
to waste, you don’t wanna get left behind/Because it’s all coming down right
MEET YOUR MASTER
One of the most obvious rock moments on the
album as juddering, gut-punch rhythms and squiggly electronics get chewed up by
a rousing, shredding guitar chorus. Vicious and noisy.
KEY LYRIC: We’ve heard
enough from you now, we‘ve heard everything.‘
THE GREATER GOOD
A second instrumental recalling elements of
‘The Fragile‘ as it ventures into sinister multi-layered trip hop territory.
Additional creepy points are scored by the inclusion of unidentified scraping sounds and a barely audible, looped
plea of ‘breathe...us in... slowly...slowly...‘
THE GREAT DESTROYER
A beautifully crafted anti-establishment anthem
gets pulverised halfway through by some astonishing Aphex Twin-style
deconstructivism. Probably not a future single, then.
KEY LYRIC: ‘Turn it
up/Listen to the shit they pump into your head/Filling you with apathy’
ANOTHER VERSION OF THE
The last of the album s instrumentals this time
reminiscent of ‘The Downward Spiral’s ruined circuitry, as the last embers of a
burning soundscape fade-out to the strains of a solitary, achingly beautiful
IN THIS TWILIGHT
Processed beats creak and wheeze like rusted
machinery, forming a cavernous backdrop for this haunting eye of the storm epic
with a vocal delivery from Reznor that marks him out as one of the most
underrated singers in rock music. Powerful desolate and one of the finest NIN
moments so far.
KEY LYRIC: ‘We can
find a better place in this twilight‘
A fathoms deep bass shudders against a wall of
sputtering effects and a fragile piano for this spectral, gospel-style closer,
that sees a redemptive light at the end of the tunnel.
KEY LYRIC: ‘Shame on
us, for what we have done/God have mercy on our dirty little hearts’