In the rush to cover the constant waves of new music, we all too often neglect discussing the releases that leave the most substantial impressions in our lives. As such, we recently invited some bands and artists to wax poetic about an album that was deeply impactful or influential to them, either musically or personally. The next guest in line to graciously offer a retrospective in this series is politically inclined industrial artist Atrop0ss, whose work can be found in the wildlands of bandcamp.
In a strange twist of fate, this is the third(!) NIN album to have been featured in this series--clearly indicating a broad reach of influence. Once yer done here, check out these retrospectives of The Downward Spiral and The Fragile! But, without further ado:
Written by: Atrop0ss
2020 has been a culmination of centuries of corruption, racism, and propaganda, all burgeoning into a multi-faced demon threatening utter demise. Americans especially are faced with a year that seems to bring a new tragedy or intense "happens once a century" type of event every month, and have reacted in all manner of negative ways. Trauma seems to be a consistent response.
And in times of trauma and hardships, we as a species often turn to music: for answers, for peace, to feeling justified, to feel heard. Musicians in these situations will often write music in order to explain a point, or make known their views. In my (relatively short) time on this earth, I've only found one album that really, honestly, predicted exactly where all this corruption and evil would bring us. That album is Year Zero by Nine Inch Nails.
Rewind to 2010. I had just started high school at a local homeschooling co-op, and was getting tired of listening to my mom's music taste (mostly alternative). Consequently, I decided to branch out, using the soundtrack of Guitar Hero 3 as a jumping off point. Given that streaming didn't exist and I had to choose what songs to spend my iTunes gift cards on VERY carefully ($15 a year didn't go very far when you had a list of 200 songs to buy) I resorted to my local library's collection of rock and metal albums, as well as their collection of books with titles like "1001 Metal Albums You MUST Hear!" and "100 Classic Rock Albums You Must Hear Before You Die!" While researching albums, and subsequently borrowing them to rip them onto my mom's old mac to listen to, one band's name came up again and again: Nine Inch Nails.
So off I went, eager to see if the library had any copies of this band's albums. On their website, a single album appeared:Year Zero. The album looked pretty interesting, albeit very different from what I imagined. Despite this, it took me very little convincing or time to take it out and take it home. Upon listening to it for the first time, I was struck by how different yet interesting the sound and lyrics were, compared to my then current taste. Harsh, intense, but equally catchy and with so much re-listen value. Up to this point I had never heard electronic music that sounded so gritty and glitchy, and I loved it so much. To this day, Year Zero holds a very special place in my heart.
A huge part of why this album is so important to me is that its meaning has changed drastically over the years. Initially, it was because I had never heard anything like it (You can DO that with a guitar??? --I didn't know what a modular synth was at the time), and it served as a jumping off point for what is now my current taste. Upon entering college, it shifted into a funnel and filter for my anger problems and acted as an anchor when my life seemed totally out of control. It illustrated to me that there are music artists with my range, and it was absolutely possible to sing in a band with a baritone range. More recently, however, Year Zero, and by extension Trent's "do-it-all-by-yourself" attitude has served as a basis for how I create my own music, as well as massive inspiration for my own sound and lyrics. Most importantly, however, is the spot-on prediction of where we are now as a country, 13 years later.
I was not always as politically active as I am now. Even two years ago, I was not nearly as well informed. All I really knew in terms of race, class, and gender was "don't rape people and don't be racist," with no nuance. Meeting friends and artists of many genders, races, and sexualities helped tremendously, and as my understanding of empathy, politics, and the human experience increased, so too did my understanding of the nuance in this album.
A decade ago I interpreted the song Capital G as meaning "Government bad and mean!" At this point, having seen the damage two presidents have done to other countries first hand, "well I used to stand for something but forgot what that could be" takes on an entirely different and much deeper, more personal, meaning. The idea of looking at war from a soldier's perspective with the line "I am trying to see, I am trying to believe, this is not where I should be" feels like a mocking retrospective on how cops see themselves facing off against peaceful protesters. The idea of a godly hand appearing over the White House and every American being told through telepathy, "we have watched you for years and you have been found guilty, change your actions," feels like something that could absolutely happen in 2020. We as a nation could be so much more. And frankly, I feel like Trent was warning us if we didn't rise to the occasion, we would be consumed by our own selfish desires and intentions.
Year Zero, in conclusion, is more than an album to me. It's a tool: a tool for understanding politics, a tool for modeling my music career, a tool for finding inspiration on hard days, and most importantly, a tool for finding yourself and where you truly stand, living in one of the most traumatic and intense periods of modern American history.
Nine Inch Nails - Year Zero was released 2007 from Interscope. All of Nine Inch Nails's assorted links can be found on their official site.
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!