Something must be out of alignment cosmically, we have a new NIN album in under five years. This is an unprecedented period of creativity for Trent Reznor; I really question the wisdom of such productivity as a lot of these new tracks sound pretty unfinished. I'm all for rough and ready tunes but they are better served if they've been fleshed out at least a little bit. "Year Zero" sounds very rushed. A continuation of "With Teeth" yet without the focused attention to detail which compelled me to buy the damn thing as soon as I could. There is no straight to the jugular follow-up to "The Hand That Feeds" unfortunately.

It's been noted by Mr. Reznor that this album began as a series of laptop sketches and I'll say that some of them work very well: "Vessel", "My Violent Heart" and the lovely "In This Twilight" are the first ones which come to mind. Yet, for all the feedback and screaming, "Year Zero" loses momentum several times throughout its sixty plus minute run. Where are the epic instrumentals that made me love "The Fragile" so much? For the most part, "Year Zero" is comprised of under five minute tracks that certainly are intended to flow together but in the final analysis sound disjointed and desperately unconventional.

"Survivalism", the lead single has all the classic touches IE: choppy synths, heavily processed guitar bits and breathy almost spoken vocals, but I'm sorry Trent, I've heard you do this sort of thing several times before. "Me, I'm Not" contains minimal instrumentation, narcissistic lyrics and the typical breakdown chorus we've been accustomed to since the chart-topping live favourite "Closer" way way back in 1994.

The more I listen to this thing, the more it becomes apparent that NIN are in serious danger of becoming a parody of themselves. I cannot take this album seriously no matter how hard I try and the whole story-line concept leaves me cold. Why oh why did Reznor not spend more time honing this album? Given another year or two in the studio, "Year Zero" could have slowly developed into a magnificent piece of work but it appears he's more interested in keeping the NIN name in the public eye rather than offering up something of true vision. Of course, the die-hard fan won't give a damn about any of this, which is the true tragedy of it all.


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