Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Apocalyptic in the Truest Sense

The new Nine Inch Nails album, Year Zero, comes out on Tuesday. It's a science-fictional concept album (probably the first such thing since David Bowie's Outside, though I may be wrong about that), and the story are of particularly interest for both its critique of conservative religion and its broader eschatological themes.

The nonlinear story has been unfolding in a viral marketing campaign (or "alternate reality game," or "interactive experience") made up of websites, mp3s, and toll-free phone numbers starting earlier this year, establishing the history and atmosphere of the dystopia in which Year Zero takes place. In a nutshell: 15 years from now, the United States has become both a police state and a theocracy. This government has used nuclear weapons on Iran, required all Muslims to register or face execution, and drugged the populace into submission with tranquilizers in the water supply. The Year Zero backstory takes a bleak view of the future of American religion, summed up by the logo of the "Faithful Civil Patrol" organized by the First Evangelical Church of Plano: a crucifix emerging from the barrel of a gun.

This type of dystopia is not the most original—it's reminiscent of the worlds of Katherine Kerr's story "Asylum" and the film Children of Men, just to name two. The medium in which it has been revealed is a novelty, though, and there's a definite thrill to be gained from exploring the sites, a sense of uncovering a mystery. This is especially true in the case of Year Zero's most interesting concept: "The Presence," a mysterious vision/hallucination of an enormous, ghostly hand descending from the sky.....

The Presence is a warning against our tribalism and selfishness. Year Zero is apocalyptic in the truest sense of the word: if we don't get our act together, it warns us, God will end the world for us. In this regard, there's something remarkably traditional about the eschatology of Year Zero. Though its political origins are the opposite of, say, Left Behind, its attitude towards the relation between God and sinful humanity is the same. We have strayed from the path of righteousness, it tells us, and we are blundering into divine retribution.

{the full post}
[via SF Gospel]

No comments:

Post a Comment