It is no longer 2007. According to Nine Inch Nails' Year Zero mania sweeping the internation, we're almost three months into -15 BA (Born Again). In the semi-terrifying world of Trent Reznor's new future-based concept album, the year 2022 is Year Zero, the year we were "Born Again." Every 12 months prior to Year Zero is denoted by negatives, thus 2007 is -15 BA. If this confuses you, give up now.
In what has to be the most innovative promotion scheme since the leaked sex tape, NIN have treated their fans to a sort of Where's Waldo game that includes tour merchandising, a dizzying network of websites and, umm, bathrooms in European concert halls. We'd be lying if we said we weren't checking echoingthesound, the main fan checkpoint, every hour to see what the latest update is.
In case you've been living under a rock (without internet), let us catch you up:
It all started with a NIN tour T-shirt. An overeager fan realized that the bolded letters on the back formed a phrase: iamtryingtobelieve, which if you add a .com to the end of it, takes us to the first piece of the puzzle. Here, we learn about the drug Parepin, which has been added to the water supplies of Orlando as protection against similar acts of bio-terrorism against Los Angeles and Anaheim in 2009 (or -13 BA...try to keep up). This site speculates whether Parepin is a medium for the government to control the minds of its citizens. When you email the site owner, who has stopped using the drug because of his conspiracy beliefs, you get this email back:
Auto-reply from firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
Thank you for your interest. It is now clear to me that Parepin is a completely safe and effective agent developed to protect us from bio-terrorism. The Administration is acting purely in the best interests of its citizens; to suggest otherwise was irresponsible and I deeply regret it.
I'm drinking the water. So should you.
OK, seems pretty clear we should avoid the water. The next site to emerge was Anotherversionofthetruth.com. The site seems innocent enough, until you click and drag the main page pictures, revealing another, more disturbing, picture underneath. When the under-picture is totally revealed, a link takes you to a message board. We can tell you what is discussed on the message board (a new drug called Opal, the introduction of the Angry Sniper character, and disturbing pictures of "The Presence"), but you should really check it out yourself. It's complex.
Here, we should introduce you to "The Presence," an ongoing motif in the game and the subject of Year Zero's cover (above). "The Presence" is literally a giant fucking four-fingered hand that, supposedly, came out of the sky. It's speculated that "The Presence" is everything from a giant tornado to the impending rapture to a government ploy used to scare its citizens. Whatever it is, it looks foreboding.
How are these sites found? Well, that's where European rest rooms come in. Throughout NIN's European tour, members of whatever all-star marketing squad is behind all this have been leaving USB drives in random concert venues. The drives are filled with new NIN songs ("My Violent Heart" and "Me, I'm Not"), cryptic mp3s and pictures visible only via spectrographs. These files if deciphered correctly also provide us playing the game with the next clue/website.
Want to know if your bathroom is going to be raided? Those ingenious posters at echoingthesound have discovered that every time a pixel blob appears next to one of the songs listed here, you should hit the toilets early for a chance of grabbing one of these drives.
There are several other sites that are pieces to the puzzles. All the sites provide subtle details into this whole game. This is a summary of what they contain:
Churchofplano.com discusses "The Presence" and introduces us to a Year Zero-era religion. The Church of Plano discusses donating land to the 105th Airborne Crusaders, which led someone to find this site...
105thairbornecrusaders.com: The "Angry Sniper" mentions he served under this unit of "Soldiers of God Under the US Flag." The Angry Sniper might be the main narrator in Reznor's scheme. He is the most reoccurring character in this story and after serving time in the military, finds himself entrenched in the "Resistance." His experiences from both fringes of society make him an ideal candidate to tell Reznor's complex story.
Bethehammer.net is apparently a resistance site maintained by the Angry Sniper. Here, you'll find numerous stories showing how America has gone even further downhill in a post-George W. Bush era.
Consolidatedmailsystems.com/nooneimportant/: This site talks about the drug Opal, a black liquid which, when injected into the eye, makes the white of the eyes turn black and produces euphoric and hallucinogenic effects. Notice that cool drawing of "The Presence" buried under the text.
Uswiretap.com/71839J/: This site contains a transcript between two law enforcement agents. Hidden somewhere on this site is text from Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughter-House Five (another of these pages contains excerpts from Tolkein's The Hobbit.)
Artisresistance.com/: The newest site to reveal itself (as of 1:30 p.m., 2/22, -15BA). Want to resist? Make art. This site provides resisters (and fans) with desktop backgrounds, AIM icons, stickers, posters, etc etc...ingredients of bringing this story into our current, physical world. So if you see a bunch of posters bearing these symbols stapled to telephone poles, well, then you live near a NIN fan.
Of course, no maze is complete without a few wrong turns. The site opalescenthaze.com drew something close to death threats when it was unmasked as a hoax. And then there's the poor fellow who runs inthistwilight.com -- the name of a Year Zero song. This site drew so much digging into the domain owner's private life, he posted on a NIN message board begging everyone to leave him alone.
So what's the next clue? This shit is more confusing than Lost, so tell us what you think its all about. Stay tuned...