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The North Wind

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The North Wind

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Ryley Wilcox
Ryley Wilcox
News Editor

I found my passion for journalism during my sophomore year of college, writing articles here and there for the North Wind. Since joining the staff this past semester as the news writer, I have been able...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas Wiertella April 30, 2024

NIN’s ‘Year Zero’ has ups and downs

The idea for Nine Inch Nails’ sixth full studio album is incredibly original. It’s a concept album dreamed up by mastermind Trent Reznor of a down-the-tubes 2022 America. The military is running the country – taking over everything from government to religion – until the people decide to fight back. Although the concept of “Year Zero” is pretty thrilling, the album itself doesn’t reach its potential.

The album begins with the instrumental intro “Hyperpower” followed by the so-so “The Beginning of the End” which, at just over two minutes, ends just as you expect it to really fire up.

“Survivalism” is the album’s first single, and rightfully so. The song is pumping and roaring industrial at its finest and the lyrics pack a protesting punch. Beware, militarist government of 2022. “I got my propaganda / I got revisionism / I got my violence in hi-def ultra-realism / All a part of this great nation,” Reznor snarls. “Survivalism” is this album’s fiery single of the new album, much like what “The Hand That Feeds” was to 2005s “With Teeth.”

The next few tracks, “The Good Soldier,” “Vessel” and “Me, I’m Not” are also rock solid. None carry that heavy metal edge that some of Reznor’s typical songs have, but they still have that familiar Nine Inch Nails feel.

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“Capital G” was the song that raised my eyebrows and brought a smile to my face. Although the story of the album takes place in 2022, Reznor is taking shots at the tyrannical leader this future America who is trigger happy, couldn’t care less for the environment, and “signs his name with a capital G.” Like any well-written narrative, this dark, yet poppy portion of the album is the rising action towards the big payoff.

“My Violent Heart,” track eight, is the absolute climax of “Year Zero.” It begins with Reznor speaking just above a whisper, creepy and quiet. It slowly builds to the exploding chorus of slamming bass, fuzz and ripping screeches. This is the song that Nine Inch Nail fans have been waiting for. It’s the album’s anthem for the oppressed. “On hands and knees / we crawl / you can not stop us all.”

Unfortunately, after the album peaks, the remaining handful of tracks spiral downward. “The Great Destroyer” is as bizarre of a track you’ll find on any Nine Inch Nails album. Less than two minutes in, it turns into a wicked techno assault of crashes, buzzes and pounding bass. In the context of the story, this could be Armageddon – in the context of music, it sounds like intergalactic warfare on a laundromat arcade game.

There’s one last little gem buried among instrumentals, however. “In This Twilight” sets an eerie mood, something Reznor has been excelling at for nearly 20 years. It’s a dark, tranquil piece, which tries hard to be the album’s emotional late-track prize, much like “Hurt” and “Right Where It Belongs” on previous albums.

The finale, “Zero Sum,” is another mostly instrumental song that slowly and forgettably finishes off the record.

The concept carries through the album well, with slow-building intros and the eventual climax. The resolving action, buried in instrumentals that lack feeling is where the album comes up short. “Year Zero” has fewer typically formatted singles than “With Teeth,” making it much more old-school Nine Inch Nails. This album won’t attract any new fans, but the current ones will be satisfied.

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