One Nation Under

From Zero

Arista Records, 2001

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/05/2001

We all know the old saying, "Appearances can be deceiving," or its brother, "Don't judge a book by its cover." Unfortunately, when you're staring at a press picture featuring a guy whose only hair is positioned into green-colored spikes, and he's wearing both eyeliner and a dog collar, well, I'm sorry, but one is definitely going to start making judgments. (Pictures like these I usually post on the walls of the Pierce Memorial Archives, and I ask visitors, "Would you buy a used car from this man?")

The subject in question is Jett, the lead vocalist for the Chicago-based industrial band From Zero. And, to be truthful, I probably would have sat on From Zero's debut release One Nation Under for some time had it not been thanks to an incident at my local Target. I was happily shopping through the music section, wondering how the industry could overinflate the prices on their product, when I heard a wonderful melody playing from the department's in-store TV programming. I looked up - and, egads, Jett was staring back at me from the monitor. This was From Zero?

You see, on first glance, I had expected the band to be a hard-edged industrial group with an appetite for cacophony. In fact, From Zero is a band who stresses melody and harmony first, intensity second - and, frankly, it's a helluva refreshing pace. nbtc__dv_250 One Nation Under had been harshly pre-judged by me - and, in all actuality, is one incredible disc.

The album's first single, "Check Ya," sets the pace for the group. Oh, sure, you have flashes of heaviness provided from the band - Jett, guitarists Joe Pettinato and Pete Capizzi, bassist Rob Likey and drummer Kid - but there's actually a melody you could hum that is the backbone of the track. Jett's vocals are so clearly delivered and mixed that it's almost like you're listening to a Top 40 hit. And - good grief - they dare to use harmony vocals! This is not your brother's industrial; this is intense rock taken to levels I don't think have been achieved before. From Zero knows they're onto something special here - and, quickly, the listener is let in on the secret.

One Nation Under is filled with such moments of amazement and discovery, leading the listener through tracks that could easily be heard on rock radio (memo to program directors: if you don't add "Check Ya," you might as well be playing Britney Spears) as well as tracks where it feels like the band is letting you view their emotional catharses. In an ideal world, I could see songs like "Smack," "The Other Side" and "Erase" taking positions on the Billboard charts - and after even one listen, you'll wonder why this scenario isn't reality. Likewise, tracks like "Horrors," "Suffering" and "Undeniable" echo pain and self-doubt that would give Trent Reznor a run for his money - but the tracks don't alienate the listener from the pictures that unfold in front of one's speakers.

A good amount of credit also has to be shared with David Bianco, who served as producer, engineer and mixer on One Nation Under. In the wrong hands, this disc could have been turned into the musical equivalent of a paint-by-numbers kit. Ah, but Bianco recognizes he's working with art, and makes sure that it comes out in all of its beauty. That's right - I said beauty while talking about an industrial-rock album. If you doubt such a thing is possible, then you haven't spent 45 minutes in front of the stereo with this disc.

In an ideal world, One Nation Under would transform From Zero from a Chicago band with a following into international superstars. Of course, if this disc turns some people's heads and gives their musical genre a swift kick in the ass, that's okay, too. From Zero have done something with their debut that is a rarity: they've captured their essence on the first try. I kind of shudder to think how they're going to top this one - but that's another headache for a later day. Until then, One Nation Under is one of the few albums of 2001 that is an absolute must-own. Discover how wonderfully beautiful industrial rock can be.

Rating: A

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© 2001 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Arista Records, and is used for informational purposes only.