First statement: Trent Renzor has redeemed himself. While I didn’t think that With Teeth was a horrible as the rest of the musical community, this album surpasses it with ease. The statement that Trent has erased the ideas of pop music seems to be on target here.
Year Zero is nothing like With Teeth, so if you were hoping for a repeat, you’re out of luck. As far as comparisons go, I have read that this is NIN’s most minimal album to date; this is a claim that I have to disagree with. Pretty Hate Machine still holds that title. While Year Zero does have its fair share of simple songs, nearly every one develops to a point that is hardly minimalistic in nature. If any song was to be described in this manner, it would have to be “My Violent Heart” which eventually disintegrates in the chorus to a mash of distorted vocals and glitch electro beats (love it.)
What really pleased me about this record is the amount of depth that is has in terms of variations throughout the progression of songs in the album. No two songs are very alike (unlike With Teeth.) That being said, this record is not very commercially appealing. The songs are very dirty and noisy; it is a return to where NIN started. So far, “Survivalism” is the only single that has been released. Probably one of the most pop-friendly tracks, it still features dirty guitars and drum machine beats torn to shreds under Renzor’s moaned verse vocals and strong chorus lines.
Putting the music off to the side, if you haven’t heard of the amazing marketing campaign that has been executed by Renzor, I’m not sure where you have been. Whether the secret “lost” USB drives carrying new tracks, hidden websites revealing album information, or phone numbers playing new tracks from Year Zero, the RIAA has had a field day determining whether they should prosecute people with the “leaked” tracks or not (as usual, they did.)
This album is up there with Pretty Hate Machine and And All that Could Have Been [Live] for me. It offers so much more than radio friendly songs.