When a friend loaned me his copy of Year Zero, it was the first time I had sat down and properly listened to anything by Nine Inch Nails. (Since then I've really got into them.) At first I wasn't really fussed: it seemed like angry lyrics set to a load of electronic chaos. But after a few listens, the music started to resolve itself into something really brilliant.
First things first: Year Zero is a concept album set in 2022 (or 'Year Zero' under the new calendar adopted in the USA), in a world where the governments put sedatives in the water to keep the masses blinkered, dirty bombs go off in Los Angeles, climate change wreaks havoc and war is a constant reality. Towards the end of the album, a mysterious entity called The Presence begins to make itself apparent.
The story of Year Zero is told from the perspectives of people in very different positions: the compliant citizen, the disillusioned soldier, members of the government, rebels, even The Presence.
It's hard not to pick out highlights: Hyperpower! mixes fairly standard alt-rock with the sounds of marching, screams and explosions. The Beginning Of The End and The Good Soldier are damn catchy. Meet Your Master is easily the funkiest song on the album. The first half of The Great Destroyer is excellent, until it degenerates into bleeps and static, which is an aspect of NIN I don't particularly like.
For me, In This Twilight is the most poignant - it's also probably the most optimistic and radio-friendly song on the album, with (ironically enough given that I just said it was optimistic) two doomed souls watching the final sunset before the imminent apocalypse.
All in all, it's an excellent album and I look forward to next instalment of the story due out next year. I have to confess, I'm curious as to where one can really go from the extinction of the human race... (Then again, Muse managed it after Absolution and released their best album to date, so fingers crossed!)