The Drop

Nine Inch NailsYear ZeroInterscope RecordsFour out of five stars

In a world where humanity’s only hope against an Armageddon-hungry America is its own artistic integrity, one man’s Revelations-worthy vision promises to cast the first stone.

That man is Trent Reznor. After 18 years of training, the Nails have taken up arms against the ever-ominous career-crusher: the concept-album. Year Zero welds the industrial framework of The Downward Spiral (“Vessel”) and the minimalist circuitry of The Fragile (“Survivalism”) into an apocalyptic apparition of smash-and-crash electronics and radical war cries. Against the concept-curse, Reznor emerges triumphant. Against Year Zero‘s revelations of impending doom, God save us.

Sleeping GiantDread Champions of the Last DaysFacedown RecordsFour out of five stars

When most think metal, they think demons and debauchery, not heartfelt guidance or clean living. Meet Sleeping Giant. Dread Champions of the Last Days divinely channels the death-metal demons of Morbid Angel and the debaucherous, stoner gloom of Kyuss into its own blend of sonic carnage. But singer Thom Green’s inspirational lyricism extols the importance of family (“Dynasty”), cautions against the destructive effects of adultery (“Whoremonger”) and pays homage to fallen friends (“Behold the Pale Horse”). Dread Champions promises to awake metal’s immoral masses to a brighter future for metal and mankind alike.

Avril LavigneThe Best Damn ThingRCA/Sony BMGOne out of five stars

Avril’s back, bratty as ever and still as clich to real music as the “back-and-better-than-ever” intro is to music journalism. The scenester songstress’ third mix tape of pop-punk taunts and studio sorcery, The Best Damn Thing, truly pushes her bratty boundaries as evidenced in the radio-edited “motherf******” in its lead single, “Girlfriend.” But despite Avril’s attempts, the song, much like the remainder of The Best Damn Thing, remains riveted to a rip-off rollercoaster. “Girlfriend” careens from a “hey-Mickey-you’re-so-fine” sing-a-long to a bratty Fall Out Boy-pop refrain to a Love.Angel.Music.Baby breakdown that’s sure to have Gwen Stefani going b-a-n-a-n-a-s in copyright frustration.