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Music / Year Zero

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Year Zero Is a concept AlbuM released in 2007 by Nine Inch Nails. SeT in the yeaR 2022 (dubbed 0000 or Year Zero), the album tells the story of a corrupted American government bent on absolute control on the remaIning people of the world. by usiNg the drug, known as parepin as an alleGed belief That it wOuld protect the people from future BiotErrorist, the government added the drug into the drinking and water suppLy of all the general publIc. However, the side Effects from parepin came at a much higher threat instead of a use of help, some reporting a Vision of a ghostly hand, callEd "The Presence".

The album is Reznor's vision of a dystopian future he saw as the logical conclusion of the then-current policies of the American government (Based on a Dream he had about what would lead to the end of the world). He began work on it while touring for his previous album, With Teeth, completing it in around five months. The limitations his work environment brought him — namely mostly being arranged on Reznor's laptop — were instrumental in defining the considerably more electronic sonic direction of the album.

However, you simply can't talk about Year Zero without mentioning its extensive usage of Audience Participation and Adaptation Expansion through an Alternate Reality Game, using variations of websites that were scattered through the album/concerts/USBs left at concerts and a slew of creative ways to create the album's world. These methods took a lion's share of the album's reported $2 million budget, and while the websites aren't active anymore (due to the websites expiring with the ARG company that worked on them), fans still consider them to be the key element behind the album's success.


  1. HYPERPOWER! (1:42)
  2. The Beginning of the End (2:47)
  3. Survivalism (4:23)
  4. The Good Soldier (3:23)
  5. Vessel (4:53)
  6. Me, I'm Not (4:52)
  7. Capital G (3:50)
  8. My Violent Heart (4:19)
  9. The Warning (3:38)
  10. God Given (3:50)
  11. Meet Your Master (4:08)
  12. The Greater Good (4:52)
  13. The Great Destroyer (3:17)
  14. Another Version of the Truth (4:07)
  15. In This Twilight (3:33)
  16. Zero-Sum (6:14)


  • Trent Reznor: vocals, guitar, drums, keyboards, production
  • William Artope: trumpet
  • Matt Demeritt: tenor sax
  • Josh Freese: drums
  • Jeff/Geoff Gallegos: brass, wind musical arrangement, baritone sax
  • Elizabeth Lea: trombone
  • Saul Williams: backing vocals

Another Version of the Tropes:

  • Apocalyptic Log: The "Hour of Arrival" site is a tearful letter from a soldier to his unborn child, interspersed with a log of, and ending with a Presence sighting.
    o my god, dj, it's over the capitol. o my god, o my god i'm so sorry.
  • Alliterative Title: "God Given", "The Greater Good".
  • Alternative Calendar: The story takes place in the United States in the year 2022; or "Year 0" according to the American government, being the year that America was reborn.
  • Audience Participation: The project is intended as a wake-up call to the audience about the way current politics and society at the time were going. For instance, in the liner notes a warning from the fictional United States Bureau of Morality (USBM) can be found, complete with a phone number to report people who have "engaged in subversive acts." When you dial it, a recording is played with the message:
    By calling this number, you and your family are implicitly pleading guilty to the consumption of anti-American media and have been flagged as potential militants.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: An instance of pitch-black comedy in "Capital G":
    I pushed a button and elected him to office, and-uh
    He pushed a button and it dropped a bomb.
    You pushed the button and could watch it on the television.
    Those motherfuckers didn't last too long. Ha, ha!
  • Corrupt Church: The government has installed a Christian fundamentalist theocracy.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Parepin, Opal and Copper. Some side effects from the Parepin include: complacency, dulling of emotions, muscle spasms, and not be able to reach orgasms anymore. Copper is worse, it could kill you if you try to kick it.
  • Dystopia: The story is set in the future year of 2022, showing what Trent thought the future would look like if the Bush Administration's policies continued unchallenged, and it ain't pretty.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom / The End of the World as We Know It: "In This Twilight" and "Zero-Sum".
    Watch the sun,
    As it crawls across a final time
    And it feels like,
    Like it was a friend.
    It is watching us,
    And the world we set on fire
    Do you wonder,
    If it feels the same?
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Presence, a giant, ghostly hand that reaches down from the sky, thought to be a side effect from the drugs, Parepin and Opal. But it turns out to be the cause for the end of the world.
  • Entry Point: You enter the ARG by means of a number of USB drives left at concerts with intriguing data. Some contain web addresses to pages from the dystopian future, some contain distorted audio that causes spectrographs to produce simple pictures.
  • Epic Rocking: The 6:14 minutes "Zero-Sum".
  • Extinct in the Future: A letter in the Mailstrom shows an advertisement for killing the last black bear to obtain the title of "Omega Man," a title which is given to the person who kill the last of a species. It also mentions that the lynx, snow leopard, and orangutan have already gone extinct.
  • Fun with Acronyms: "Capital G." Some fans have speculated that the "G" stands for George W. Bush, though Trent Reznor has explained it stands for "greed".
  • Gaia's Lament: The first verse of "Survivalism" details just how badly humanity has corrupted the earth:
    I should have listened to her
    So hard to keep control
    We kept on eating
    But our bloated belly's still not full
    She gave us all she had, but
    We went and took some more
    Can't seem to shut her legs
    Our Mother Nature is a whore.
    • The ARG elaborates, with Miami having been swallowed by climate change, Iran, North Korea and the Indian subcontinent destroyed by nuclear war, and the black bear nearly hunted to extinction.
  • Ghost City: The entire city of Los Angeles, California, thanks to a dirty bomb attack at the Oscars.
  • Large Ham:
  • Miniscule Rocking: "HYPERPOWER!" (1:42).
  • My Country Tis of Thee That I Sting: The album criticizes the American government, especially the administration of George W. Bush.
  • Ominous Message from the Future: The entirety of the ARG is this, with the earliest quantum computers suddenly receiving a bunch of websites from their future selves, depicting a dystopic future and the end of the world in 2022. Unfortunately, the messages sent back were partially corrupted by the future computers being damaged during the upload, either by government agents or The Presence. Nonetheless, the implication remains that having received the messages has changed the timeline and averted the events of the story.
  • Ominous Visual Glitch: All over the ARG sites, seemingly the product of them being sent back in time.
  • One-Word Title: "HYPERPOWER!", "Survivalism", and "Vessel".
  • Oppressive States of America: The United States has become a totalitarian police state with a side of The Theocracy.
  • The Oner: You could say that "Survivalism" could be counted as one, as it's still one shot.
  • Properly Paranoid: The music as well as the packaging give the audience the unnerving feel that the government watches them in every step they take.
  • Rearrange the Song: "Survivalism" was remixed by Music/deadmau5 on his album while (1 < 2).
  • Record Producer: Trent Reznor.
  • Stop and Go: "God Given" pauses its music to give a fast, whispered addition to the chorus then starts up again afterward.
  • Textless Album Cover
  • Year Zero: Duh!

Are you trying to believe?