There are a host of reasons I decided to put both of these in the same post. One, I didn’t feel like making two seperate posts on essentially the same topic. Two, they’re both albums that came out last week, and which I bought on iTunes shortly thereafter. So this is the first time I can recall that I’ve posted about something less than a month late. I generally like to chew on things for a while before writing about them, ever since I gave Need for Speed: Underground a glowing review, then started to hate it because of the cheating rubberband AI. But there’s a point where I stop digesting information and forming opinions, and just start getting lazy.
Thematically, there are some similarities: Year Zero is a post-apocalyptic concept album, and in typical VNV fashion, Judgement is something I can only describe as pre-apocalyptic - “You probably won’t listen, but stop acting like morons or we’re all hosed. It’d be pretty cool if you did, though.”, that sort of thing. It’s what they do.
The other commonality between the two is that they’re both from bands that I’ve liked for a while, but had disappointing albums last time around. I thought Matter + Form was basically the “Chrome” single with a one or two decent B-sides and half an hour of electro-pop filler. With-a Teeth-a wasn’t necessarily bad, in fact listening to it I didn’t think it was any worse than the other NIN albums that I’d enjoyed. I just couldn’t get into it, and at the time I thought I just didn’t like Nine Inch Nails anymore.
Happily, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Year Zero has a harder, more cacophanous edge than most of Trent Reznor’s old material - some things on The Fragile come close - but more than anything the sound of it is best described as The Downward Spiral before it got shoved into the blender. It’s good solid industrial music, without the gunk getting in the way. It’s like listening to a bunch of assholes pushing every button in the Home Depot power tools aisle, but at least they’re coordinated and the acoustics in the room are nice.
Judgement bogs down in some kind of whiny hypno-trace filler on two tracks in the middle, and it’s unfortunately short. Beyond that, it’s their best album in years. The good songs on here, and out of ten tracks that’s about six of them, are easily on par with anything I’ve heard from them before. Aside from the afforementioned lull, the songs are typically VNV preachy without being so much so that I fast forward. They have a tendency sometimes to take the schitck too far, but when they keep it in check and the music is as solid as it is here, I’ve got no complaints.