Cyberpunk Review » Album Preview - Nine Inch Nails: Year Zero

April 11, 2007

Album Preview - Nine Inch Nails: Year Zero

Music Review By: Mr. Roboto

Year: 2007

Artist: Nine Inch Nails

Written by: Trent Reznor

Label: Nothing/Interscope

Year Zero

Official Site: nine inch nails: year zero

Track listing:
1. “Hyperpower!” – 1:42
2. “The Beginning Of The End” – 2:47
3. “Survivalism” – 4:23
4. “The Good Soldier” – 3:23
5. “Vessel” – 4:53
6. “Me, I’m Not” – 4:52
7. “Capital G” – 3:50
8. “My Violent Heart” – 4:19
9. “The Warning” – 3:38
10. “God Given” – 3:50
11. “Meet Your Master” – 4:08
12. “The Greater Good” – 4:52
13. “The Great Destroyer” – 3:17
14. “Another Version Of The Truth” – 4:09
15. “In This Twilight” – 3:33
16. “Zero-Sum” – 6:14

Credit should go to Vesper who posted this thread about Trent Reznor’s upcoming album. As the anticipated release date of April 17 draws closer, there have been numerous sites along with the leaked tracks that have been generating a lot of buzz. So much so that the terminally clueless RIAA has been ordering the sites to stop the viral campaign.



It started in February with a simple phrase, whose individual letters were highlighted on the backs of concert t-shirts. For those who were able to figure out that it was a website and logged into it, they are suddenly thrust into a Parepin-induced frenzy where an anti-bioterrorism drug is suspected of causing people to see “The Presence.” Since then, USB thumbdrives were found in bathroom stalls at NIN concerts, containing unreleased songs. The titles of the songs lead to more websites, and those who did spectrographic analysis of the songs found other clues and signs like a phone number for the “U.S. Wiretap” and “The Presence.” Now, all the pieces fit as the album can be heard in it’s entirety at the official site, along with a trailer and a video for “Survivalism.”


“Survivalsim” video from YouTube. Uncensored for your enjoyment. U.N. Bureau of Cyberpunk.


With all this hype surrounding Year Zero, is there really any reason why it should appear here @ Cyberpunk Review? There’s plenty to take away from the websites, and from the song lyrics.


Overview: “Year Zero” is 2022 after the US Government establishes a new calendar system to be used worldwide. A ricin-based “dirty bomb” is set off at the Academy Awards in 2009, and the US retaliates by nuking Iran and North Korea. When the remaining Muslim nations declare a jihad, the government adds a Cedocore-made drug called “Parepin” into the water supplies, claiming it would negate biological and chemical agents terrorists use. The government also begins stripping constitutional rights by passing the “Emergency Measures Act.”

To escape the religious insanity, people start using another Cedocore-made drug known as “Opal,” which replaces cocaine as the drug of choice. Somewhere between the Parepin and the Opal, people begin seeing “The Presence,” a god-like hand that reaches down from the skies and appears to be grabbing the ground or trying to claw it.

Accoring to the NINWiki, Trent Reznor describes how the album began to take shape:

“This record began as an experiment with noise on a laptop in a bus on tour somewhere. That sound led to a daydream about the end of the world. That daydream stuck with me and over time revealed itself to be much more. I believe sometimes you have a choice in what inspiration you choose to follow and other times you really don’t. This record is the latter. Once I tuned into it, everything fell into place… as if it were meant to be. With a framework established, the songs were very easy to write. Things started happening in my “real” life that blurred the lines of what was fiction and what wasn’t. The record turned out to be more than a just a record in scale, as you will see over time.

Part one is year zero. Concept record. Sixteen tracks. All written and performed by me, produced / programmed by me and Atticus Ross, mixed by Alan Moulder, mastered by Brian “Big Bass” Gardner. Release date: April 17, 2007.

What’s it about? Well, it takes place about fifteen years in the future. Things are not good. If you imagine a world where greed and power continue to run their likely course, you’ll have an idea of the backdrop. The world has reached the breaking point - politically, spiritually and ecologically. Written from various perspectives of people in this world, “year zero” examines various viewpoints set against an impending moment of truth. How does it sound? You will hear for yourself soon enough, but given the point of this document is to provide information…

This record is much more of a “sound collage” than recent efforts from me.

A lot of it was improvised.

It is very tedious describing your own music.

It’s not just music.

It’s probably too long, but it felt like the right thing to do to paint the complete picture.

It will sound different after a few listens.

You can think about it and it will reveal more than you were expecting.

You can dance to a lot of it.

You can fuck to a lot of it (maybe all of it depending on what you’re into).


OK, So what about the music? Let’s start at track #1: Hyperpower! A term used to describe a nation like the United States, who dominate the world’s economics and politics. This track gets things off on the right foot with its crunchy drum-and-guitar march, ending with a sonic riot.

The Beginning of the End gives a good rock track, and a bit of a warning of Big Brother’s eavesdropping abilities: Watch what you think, they can read your mind.

Survivalism presents mostly drums and electronics while Trent’s voice marches through lyrics like Hypnotic sound of sirens\Echoing through the street\The cocking of the rifles\The marching of the feet\You see your world on fire\Don’t try to act surprised\We did just what you told us\Lost our faith along the way and found ourselves believing your lies.

The Good Soldier is a bit more relaxed, while a soldier has second thoughts about what he feels about his nation and the direction it’s heading (I am trying to believe).

Vessel gives more electronic distortion as Trent describes being a vessel: I can leave all of this flesh behind\I can see right through this whole façade\I am becoming something else\I am turning into God. That should take care of the transhuman element.

Me, I’m Not has Trent fearing the changes: And I’m losing control\I’m not used to this\What you want from me?

Capital G. As in George Bush, Jr. who decides to screw the constitution in 2008 and go for a third term to continue his dirty work. Sounds like a D’uh’bya supporter rapping: Don’t try to tell how some power can corrupt a person\You haven’t had enough to know what it’s like\You’re only angry cause you wish you were in my position\Now nod your head because you know that I’m right—all right!

My Violent Heart is mostly soft, but gets power during the choruses. Trent tells the powers that be that he does not intend to go quietly, and if he does, there will others: On hands and knees\We crawl\You can not stop us all.

The Warning has a visit from “The Presence,” in verse form: Some say it was a warning\Some say it was a sign\I was standing right there\When it came down from the sky. The last few lyrics are a warning to the powers that be: We’ve come to intervene\You will change your ways and you will make amends\Or we will wipe this place clean

God Given plays up the “We’re right, they’re wrong” mentality of religion (Put your faith in me\I sure wouldn’t want to be\Praying to the wrong piece of wood\You should Get where you belong\Everything you know is wrong) while inviting you to “Come on, sing along everybody now!”

Meet Your Master holds someone hostage: You’ll put on this blindfold\You’ll do what we tell you\You’ll do as your told.

The Greater Good sound like a Zen exercise put to electronic noise: Breathe us in\Slowly\Slowly… Persuasion\Coercion\Submission\Assimilation.

The Great Destroyer has Trent being interrogated, but holding a deadly secret: I hope they cannot see\ The limitless potential\Living inside of me\To murder everything\I hope they cannot see\I am the Great Destroyer.

Another Version of the Truth is another instrumental track; An eerily quiet piano piece.

In This Twilight has Trent feeling the end approaching, and wonders what he could have done to make things better: As your time is running out\Let me take away your doubt\You can find a better place.

Zero-Sum brings the CD… and the World of Year Zero… to a bitter end. But something about the chorus leaves me thinking that this “reality” was only a simulation: For all we have done\And all we ever were\Just zeros and ones.


Conclusion: This latest offering from Trent certainly has the potential to be a classic concept album like Queensryche’s Operation: Mindcrime. All the work to create the future world dystopia definitely gives an intensity to the the tracks. Give Year Zero a listen at the official site and see if you agree.

If you want to see all the sites connected to Year Zero, just head for the NINWiki as your start point, and prepare to lose yourself in Opal, Parepin, and “The Presence.”

This post has been filed under Cyberpunk Music by Mr. Roboto.


April 11, 2007

Isamashii said:

As a fan of NIN, I have allready the album. Not best, but as good as the other NIN albums! A must have!

caprison said:

more anti-american garbage from Reznor. I really used to like the early stuff. The music is still ok but it is starting to wane. I think a lack of focus on the music and more on his personal adjenda is what can attribue to that. Just an opinion from a concerned NiN fan.. but you know what they say about opinions.. heh.

Anonymous said:

Sounds interesting enough but NIN is too pop-ish for my tastes.

Perhaps I’ll give it a listen anyways, if it’s different enough from their past works.

Meme_Warrior said:

Caprison, some would say that the real garbage is coming out of Washington these days and that artists like Reznor are just pointing it out. I respect your right to dislike the album, it’s not for everyone. But I think your comment about having a lack of focus on the music is a little disingenuous. Art has always been about expression and more often than not political commentary as well. I’m sure some people criticized Picasso 1937 for his painting of the bombing of Guernica. But history has largely silenced those critics and praised Picasso for boldly speaking out against a Fascist dictator. Now I’m not trying to compare Reznor to Picasso in any terms of greatness, just pointing it is often the function of an artist to make political statements. One thing I do get tired of people using the word ‘agenda’ in a negative connotation. Just about everyone has an agenda in life and it is by no means a valid basis for any kind criticism. About the only people in life without an agenda are catatonic vegtables.

April 12, 2007

caprison said:

I’m not foolish enough (nor are most people) to think that one cannot have an agenda but the reason people use it in a negative connotation is because some peoples agendas are truly negative. How does anything he say in his lyrics help mankind through this time of peril? Besides that, it’s very easy to point something out.. if he feels so strong about it he would stop pointing at the garbage and take it out. I suppose, like you, I am tired of people complaining about how the garbage stinks but don’t really have an answer to the problem. As for my comments being disingenuous I would say that is a little strong. I’ve listened to NIN off and on since “Downward Spiral” and was giving my honest and candid opinion that their music has changed from their roots in a way that could be explained by my comments above.. nothing more. Sorry to turn into a dissertation on recent politics.. and I’ll put the famous American disclaimer after my comments “I respect your right to your opinion but I disagree”

Go back to the old school NIN!! Quit trying to make a statement.

Vesper said:

Thanks for the kudoz in the intro, Roboto-san :-)
I, for one, find the album VERY interesting from its conceptual side, and pretty experimental for NIN from the musical side.

April 13, 2007

wiredcoma said:

This is probably the last NIN album that I’m going to try. I’ve been a NIN fan from the start, but the music has become less industrial and more poprock. With teeth was a real turn off, but the theme of this album does seem kind of cool. (BTW, has anyone noticed how trent has turned into the incredible hulk? lol)

To be honest, I’d rather stick with KMFDM, Skinny Puppy, and Front Line Assembly (A band you guys should seriously consider checking out, all of their albums, for the past 20 years are all scifi based).

I disagree that the only criticism that should be heard ‘constructive criticism’. You may personally be tired of the sentiment and that’s fine but it’s an argument that tends to be used by people accusing their opponents of having no alternative ideas, and these people tend to think this because they just happen to hate the alternative ideas.

I don’t want music that just talks about the way the world should or could be, I also want music that expresses how fucked up it is.

caprison said:

When the subject matter is as serious as this then I don’t think idle criticism should be cheaply thrown around. It’s counter productive to solving the problem for those trying to. I would have to disagree that “people” tend to not be open to alternative ideas. I believe that “people’s” frustration comes from, like I stated before, a lack of alternative ideas.

I do enjoy discussion on this stuff though. It’s a sickness i think :)

What did you think about the album, present discussion aside?

April 15, 2007

Ghostface said:

I’m going to agree on Illusive mind and Meme_Warrior on this one. Trent is pointing things out in a very creative way. What he’s doing can influecne people and inspire new ideas. I also dont think people should critisize the album for being pop, its his own style. FLA is cool, but there needs to be variation in cyberpunk related music too.

April 16, 2007

Trashware said:

This is an album that had to grow a bit on me (although not as long as With Teeth, which I’m still not quite used too).

It’s different as in less personal and not as dark, angsty or cynical as The Fragile and The Downward Spiral. As a matter of fact this is a complete different story, and that’s probably how one shoulds approach this album. To some people this may seem an improvement, but I just keep feeling there’s something missing here. Still I can’t really blame someone for trying something different after 20 years.

Still these are some pretty interesting tracks (Me I’m Not and My Violent Heart being my favorites so far), and there’s enough noise and layers to catch my attention and keep me listening. It’s a different NiN, but in the end it’s not too bad at all.

April 17, 2007

Meme_Warrior said:

I think it’s interesting that one of the websites that’s part of the Year Zero ARG is called Art is Resistance. Trent seems to be making the same case I am in that the function of art is to resist these forces that we find to be destructive to our world and even our personal lives. Part of the Year Zero ARG storyline involves a group of people who have found a way to transmit these websites from 15 years in the future into the past, or our present, in order to warn us about the world wide collapse in year zero. Perhaps Trent is trying to encourage other artists to join a resistance against a possible future he has envisioned it or one similar to it.

April 19, 2007

Mr. Roboto said:

This might sound odd, but I’ve been thinking that somehow Cyberpunk Review can be involved in the Y0-ARG. It would depend on how SFAM, CPR’s host, and everyone here feels about it.

April 21, 2007

Adam said:

Blah. More of Trent’s whiney Emo meets Electronica. He’s lost his touch since his second album (the first being a generally unheard of sloppy attempt at copying early Gary Numan) which was mediocre at best. But then I suppose industrial has never been popular due to it being typically political in nature, so this new messy fusion is targeted to the larger crowd of angst-ridden youth which sells, instead of just copying Einstruzende Neubauten song progressions.

Adam said:

I suppose these bands/albums would be more cyberpunk in nature if anyone cares to review them :

Front 242 - Geography, Back Catalogue, Front by Front, Official Version, Tyranny for You

Front Line Assembly - Caustic Grip

Skinny Puppy - Back and Forth

Clock DVA - Buried Dreams, Digital Sountracks

SPK - (basically anything)

Bigod 20 - Steel Works!

Ministry - Twitch

Coil - (anything)

Portion Control - The Man Who Did Somersaults Backwards

April 22, 2007

meme_warrior said:

Adam, you know… one of the reasons I don’t like discussing music with other people too often is because of elitist pricks like you. It seems like there’s always someone out there ready to jump at the chance to piss all over your taste in music because they think they’re more underground, hardcore, hip, ect. than you are. I apologize to everyone else for the flame post, but some of the arrogant commentary flying around here just doesn’t sit too well with me.

caprison said:

Honestly I could say the same of you. How is it when you express your opinion it’s your taste but when this guy expresses his he’s pissing all over your taste because he’s trying to be more underground than you. It really is hard to tell tone from typing and besides that.. he explains his opinion. At least he didn’t say “NIN u sux” or something like that. Then maybe I could understand your frustration.

I’m just glad someone finally agrees.. thanks Adam. I guess I was so impressed with Reznor’s earlier stuff that it just makes this stuff seem sub par.

BTW.. weren’t you the one who called me disingenuous?? That’s a tad elitist of you to proclaim yourself “attitude” judge. I still like ya though cause you have a differing opinion and it’s fun to hear.. and i don’t think your post was a flame.. you we’re just expressing yerself.

Ghostface said:

caprison, meme_warrior was just pointing out that the tone at wich adam was speaking with was elitist. He was stating those opions as facts, and then saying that other bands like the ones he mentioned were more cyberpunk then NIN. He’s free not to like Trent’s music, but what Trent did was still pretty origional and added more variation to cyberpunk related music. He also put more emotion in Industrial music, wich was a different and exciting perspective.

May 10, 2007

BillyGibsonFan said:

The album is a move forward. I’ve been listening to it loudly and constantly on a fancy British/German HiFi and my m4a player. Still haven’t taken it in completely, it’s so layered. Listened to it at night in bed, and it was creepy as flashes of the ARG intertwined with the music.

I for one welcome the new direction. Makes the old albums seem a little dated. I would never want Rez to move backwards a ‘la With Teeth.

The ARG is so much fun. I got sucked into it for about 4 hours today. It does add a veneer of paranoid focus to the music. What I thought the songs were about is a little different and confusing now.

May 26, 2007

petkov said:

“ricin-based “dirty bomb” is set off at the Academy Awards”?
gawd, thats the silliest thing I have ever heard! Ricin can only be effective as poison if it is injected or somehow digested. Therefore a ricin based dirty bomb(leaving aside for a moment the very concept of dirty bomb is ridicilous) will as totally ineffective. But looking at how Bush and Co operate, the majority of American sheeple will totally fall for such a staged event. Plus Bush and Co will get rid of a lot of Hollywood elite people who largely opposite them.
2 birds with one stone, right?
Speaking of Year Zero, it certainly isn’t Downward Spiral. Reznor lost it long ago. I will stick with Merzbow, thanx!

June 6, 2007

h347h0r3z said:

ahh go with skinny puppy, ministry has kinda fallen out…but as for industrial go with
combichrist- wtfiwwy
frontline assembly- artificial soldier
kmfdm-hua ruck
die warzau- ( get on myspace and check out watchmen and insect)

but as for nin..trent lost it… its easy to view nin as a good scapegoat for the death of industrial….but then again you cant really call him a scapegoat if its a main reason why.

June 17, 2007

Thrasher said:

I’ll definitely give it a try, though I’m never been much interested in their music. What I found interesting is some of the CP elements. The main one being the video of Survivalism, which reminds me of 1984, with all those cameras peeking on everyone’s house. Mr. Roboto mentioned the Big Brother on his description of The Begining Of The End, so I guess that Orwell’s novel has been an influence for NIN, or it’s lasting influence on popular culture at least.

I would like to see a review of 1984, the movie, at CPR, I hope you’ve seen it SFAM!

September 4, 2007

Frater Ignatios said:

You should check out GRIDLOCK. The albums Synthetic Form, Further, Trace
and Formless have captured the very essence of cyberpunk.
Everything else out there pales..

September 6, 2007

Klaw said:

If you haven’t listened, there is a posting of Year Zero remixes on NIN’s site… apparently they released all the tracks as open source to be remixed for a contest… the results are impressive.

October 5, 2007

ferchunix said:

I don’t understand why some people say I should listen to xxxx band. The review is very good and is about a NIN album not about other bands, even i like many of them, so why don’t that people only give their opinion about this album or other NIN albums and stop fucking with other awesome cyberpunk bands? I use emule too ok?

Personally i like all NIN albums but no NIN album have been of my liking for the first listening, NIN albums since The Downward Spiral is for people who want to spend some time listening them, it’s not music for everyone but the more you listen the more you like…so why don’t you give it a second or a third chance?

For people who say that earlier albums are better i agree with them but you can’t expect a good artist can make same music for eigtheen years,all bands(and people) must have an evolution and Trent has done it very well, all NIN albums are different and very good even if you prefer ones more than others.

And finally, sorry, the theme is totally cyberpunk so it’s a very nice new album for a cyberpunkreview ;) .

April 13, 2008

Oliver said:

The way I get it the parts of Zero-Sum which goes: “For all we have done\And all we ever were\Just zeros and ones.” Is about the human rase, and the fact that all we are worth is just some computerized electronics, that’s all humanity is worth. The wars and evil and shit we tend to bring with us leaves us with only our technology to brag about… which again are just zeros and ones.

March 6, 2009

Shem Booth-Spain said:

whoever wrote that overview of trents new album did a great job. I make music myself and would be honoured if he did a review of my concept album which can be listened to at my homepage ..

the albums about cybernetic future post apocalyptic and is called gemini critical mass….

let me know yr thoughts folks…..

October 23, 2009

Transverse City said:

While I disagree with pretty much everything you said about NIN, you might enjoy listening to VNV Nation, specifically the album Empires.

Transverse City said:

Ah, FAIL. That last comment was supposed to be directed at Adam.

Anyway. Great review of Year Zero, which in my opinion is a great album. One of Trent’s best. Right up there with Downward Spiral.

Only, Capital G is not about Bush, it’s about “Greed”, which you can hear chanted in the chorus.

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