Is It Can Be Music Reviews Time?

I've been in a rock mood lately while waiting for the new Velvet Revolver album to release. I never got around to reviewing the new NIN LP, so I thought I'd do it now and throw in a couple extras to boot.

Nine Inch Nails - Year Zero

Well I used to stand for something
But forgot what that could be
There's a lot of me inside you
Maybe you're afraid to see

Well I used to stand for something
Now I'm on my hands and knees
Traded in my god for this war
And he signs his name with a capital G

I've meant to write a review of this album for a while, but I'm afraid that I can't find words to express my feelings. This is the first album where Reznor steps outside the skin of the depressed kid in the back of the classroom. He's always written from the perspective of the kid who feels that his voice is unheard and unwanted. After a decade of platinum albums and sell-out tours, he's finally realized that his voice is recognized. With Year Zero, Reznor is making a statement about our political landscape, our society, and the direction we are all heading together.

I didn't care for the first single Survivalism until I saw its accompanying video. At that point, I realized that this isn't necessarily a NIN song. It's a signal from the future. It isn't Nine Inch Nails, it's a garage band that is loosely connected to a cellular resistance group of artists. Like the rest of the messages from the Year Zero ARG, Survivalism is a signal sent back into time that speaks against our actions today and the future they create. It's a metaphor for the album itself, and an appropriate introduction to Year Zero proper.

The Year Zero concept would be good enough as an internet game or graphic novel, but it would fail as an album if Fallout Boy or Kid Rock supplied the soundtrack. The sounds of Year Zero are a look into the future of industrial rock and computer-obsessed garage bands. Trent and Atticus Ross push current music software to the edge to produce a collage of noise that sounds like a band of defective Roombas crying in garbled binary. It's a musical statement that doesn't come from Trent, but from Tron Reznor.

Marilyn Manson - Eat Me, Drink Me

Faster, faster,
I'm late, I'm late!
And the hands on my clock
Are starting to shake.
While Trent Reznor has travelled into the future to witness the dangers of the George P. Bush presidency, Marilyn Manson travelled back to the 19th Century to issue a report from the birth of Gothic culture. Marilyn has never attempted to push the sonic boundaries of music; he has been content sculpting pop albums for the post-therapy generation. He and Tim Skold (of Kingfish, KMFDM) crafted an inspired gothic industrial-pop album that feels timeless and strangely personal. Manson channels The Vampire Lestat, the Mad Hatter, the Antichrist Superstar, Armin Meiwes, and David Bowie in his performance to deliver one of his best albums to date.

Eat Me, Drink Me is full of iconic (and ironic) imagery that would seem contrived if it were produced by anybody except for Manson. Vampires, Frankenstein, Witches, Funerals, The Red Queen, and The Devil all make an appearance on this album. But all are bit players in the tragic account Manson delivers here. He's moved beyond the roles of instigator, inquisitor, and fornicator. This is a monologue delivered by Manson's living corpse as he drinks from the Cask of Amontillado. (Supplemented by an industrial rock soundtrack created by a band of vogue vampires.) It's an album that should creep out parents and make you consider painting your fingernails black, but unlike his recent work this doesn't feel like an album calculated to push you in those directions.

Ozzy Osbourne - Black Rain

Politicians confuse me.
I watch the body count rise.
Why are the children all marching, Into the desert to die.

I'll be honest, I wasn't expecting much from the new Ozzy album. I felt that his reality show portrayed him as a neutered, irrelevant, pampered rock retiree. Black Rain isn't a concept album or an attempt to "revive" his career with a lot of special guests. It's not the soundtrack to a movie that doesn't yet exist like the others that I have reviewed today. No, this isn't as powerful as his earlier work. However, it's slightly more mature than other entries in his catalogue. Ozzy wants to make a statement about his life, retirement, and the world around him. He isn't taking the Rod Stewart path and singing big band standards. He sticks with one of the better guitarists in metal today (Zakk Wylde), and delivers an album consistent with any of his albums since No More Tears. It may not be groundbreaking, but it is new Ozzy. If you like his old stuff, you'll find something to like here.

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