Leave it to Trent Reznor -- a musician who probably doesn't even need to hype his art at this point -- to trump every other viral marketer with the Internet-heavy promotional campaign for Year Zero. (It's a concept record; think the Big Brother mentality of George Orwell's 1984 combined with the drugged-out society of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.) Zero's tone leans toward the bleak and nihilistic, thanks to lyrics obsessed with apocalyptic imagery and bitter vengeance. But this time, Reznor channels his ire at outsiders -- namely the government, its clueless leaders and other zealots -- instead of himself. Musically, Zero mirrors this urgency: Raw, brazen metallic aggression matches jagged electronic elements, which take cues from chunky new-wave funkiness and swampy trip-hop. Overall, Year Zero stands on its own as an artistic achievement apart from its mythology. The gnarled disc isn't as easy to relate to on a personal or emotional level as other NIN discs, but in light of the album's calculated content and genesis, maybe the alienation and distance are intentional.
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