Friday, October 05, 2007


Several recent releases have apparently reawakened my thirst for decent industrial music. Uncle Al is finally putting the mighty beast that is Ministry to rest with their final release, The Last Sucker, so I headed to Amazon to check it out. It goes without saying that I bought the album (I loves me some Uncle Al). In addition, I also picked up Rio Grande Dub Ya, an album of remixes of tracks from Rio Grande Blood. Amazon teased me by saying I could get free shipping and reduced prices on these two CDs if I bought something else. So I went for it.

Year Zero from Nine Inch Nails.

This may be surprising to those of you who read my last NIN post, as I'd pretty much given up on Trent. Still, Amazon sold me the disc for cheap, so I figured I didn't have much to lose.

And now it's my favorite of the three.

It's that good.

Things start out sounding like standard Nine Inch Nails: noisy and slightly funky. The first two tracks ("Hyperpower!" and "The Beginning Of The End") don't sound like anything new at all. I got nervous about this pretty fast. However, "Survivalism" begins to stir the pot a bit. It's strangely cute and bumpy and somewhat reminiscent of "Mr. Self Destruct" off The Downward Spiral, but is not quite as stridently aggressive. Trent’s vocal delivery is great. This track in turn bleeds into "The Good Soldier", which has a nice, funky guitar line. It did not impress me much at first, but has an absolutely gorgeous ending.

Then "Vessel" arrives and things get REALLY interesting.

It sounds like Trent has been listening to equal parts Autechre and Public Enemy. This tune is chock full of glitchy, nasty beats. This song is just UGLY in all the right ways and is the album's strongest track to this point. "I let you put it in my mouth / I let it get under my skin / I let you pump it through my veins / I let you take me from within". The entire thing disintegrates into an all out glitch fest at the end and then gradually transforms in "Me, I'm Not". This is a really spooky track, complete with distant drones and breathy vocal delivery. However, this doesn't last long.

"Capital G" chimes in with a beat stolen right from Gary Glitter (and then fed through a blender). The vocal delivery is really choppy and funky (and probably the most interesting on the album). This general sense of industro-funk leads into "My Violent Heart" which starts off subtly and then hits you over the head with the chorus. Awesome. "The Warning" follows with yet more Autechre-like beats and amazing, blues-tinged guitar lines. This song also continues to expand throughout, getting bigger and bigger as Trent adds more and more subtle elements. This finally explodes into "God Given" which has a caterwauling opening and more whispered, dropout vocals accompanied by buzzing synth lines.

At first, I didn't like the sound of the next track, "Meet Your Master", but then it evolves into a gorgeous middle eighth and an explosive guitar chorus. This does, however, devolve again into "The Greater Good" which is dark and spacious, with the drums right up front in the mix and the vox layered deeper than before.

Unfortunately, the track that follows, "The Great Destroyer", slightly throws off the flow a bit. Sure, it's noisy, but it's not as strong as the four songs that precede it. However, just when I thought it was a throwaway, it blossoms into a glitchy rhythmic freakout that calls to mind the breakdown in "Happiness In Slavery", but it's infinitely more complex and interesting. In fact, it completely saves the song.

Then we have "Another Version Of The Truth". This may actually be my favorite track on the album (although I've got to admit it's damned hard to pick). This an instrumental that features a melancholy, delicate piano melody surrounded by static and drones (somewhat along the lines of "Help Me I Am In Hell"). However, this temporary solace is broken apart as "In This Twilight" steps to the fore.

There's an abrasive-as-hell beat that introduces this juggernaut of a tune. Then Trent's vocals come soaring over the top of this miasma of guitar feedback. It's a stunner (also on my list of faves for this album). The final track, "Zero-Sum", reminds me a bit of the title track from The Downward Spiral, especially the spoken word vocals, distant piano and synths. However, it definitely has its own character and seems more lyrically and sonically mature; another great track and an excellent choice of closer.

So imagine my surprise at all this! It's good to see that Trent has got his shit back together (at least in my opinion). I didn't really take part in any of the viral marketing stuff he propagated for this album, but I can say that I'm really impressed with the resulting disc. A strong piece and the best he's done since The Downward Spiral. In fact, I'd say Year Zero is actually a better album than TDS. It's going to be on my play list for quite a bit, I suspect.

Ear canal dredgers:

Nine Inch Nails - Year Zero
(Trent finds his footing again)

Ministry - Rio Grande Dub Ya
(Uncle Al spews more vitriol on Fearless Leader)

Ministry - The Last Sucker
(and then bows out)

Underworld - Second Toughest In The Infants
(epic technoisms)

Building Castles Out Of Matchsticks - Please, Try Not To Forget Me
(be my melancholy baby)


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