Rising from Ruins: The Resonance of ‘Year Zero’ by Divisions
After a brief hiatus, Divisions return with ‘Year Zero’, which depicts outcomes from cataclysmic events promoting a clean slate for humanity brought on by mass destruction. Born from a shared admiration for iconic acts like Radiohead and Pink Floyd, Divisions began their musical journey at a young age. Their unique sound, characterised by introspective lyrics and a rock ethic, is typically complemented by electronic layers and intricate vocal arrangements. Having been playlisted on Amazing Radio and even making their mark in the station’s top 40 chart, Divisions has showcased their talent in various London shows. Their songwriting prowess hasn’t gone unnoticed either, as they’ve been finalists in the esteemed UKSC songwriting competition.
The concept of “Year Zero” originated from the Cambodian genocide as the oppressive Khmer Rouge attempted to eradicate Cambodia and forcibly assimilate them into Kampuchean society. However, this song contradicts the idea of eliminating a population by preaching unity in the lyrics. It begins in a minor key where the protagonist mourns the damage his homeland has suffered, and notes heard from the piano and voice are in harmony evoking sadness as the general impression from this disaster.
Listen to ‘Year Zero’ by Divisions on Spotify:
The homophonic texture of the voice and piano reinforces the sense of isolation portrayed in the lyrics of verses 1 and 2. The smooth transition from minor to major key in the chorus emphasises the presence of hope now they’re beginning again. The band and backup singers supporting the lead vocals emphasise the notion of being stronger together. Furthermore, the first additional vocal we hear in the lyrics “and how ridiculous” stresses the agreed opinion amongst the people affected that the larger powers are to blame in this tragedy.
The chorus highlights the underlying religious tone of this composition as the singers collectively preach for hope alike a gospel choir would, establishing a ceremonial feel to the arrangement. I envisioned it being performed in a cathedral or church when I first listened to it as the piano chords playing in unison mimicked the sounds from an organ. Until the rock and roll guitar solo comes along and the melody is hummed by the backup singers, showing their message is spreading as the volume and power crescendos. The ending strengthens the sorrowful feeling heard in the beginning as we do not hear the lead vocals anymore, the tempo slows down, the piano chords play monophonically and end on an imperfect cadence. The final ten seconds end with a bass note from the piano that echoes out into silence confirming the intended solemnity for the audience.
You could say that Year Zero is politicised due to its title and resembles the feelings from the stories we hear about the current conflicts happening between Palestine and Israel and Ukraine and Russia. So, if you are feeling nihilistic towards the planet or government because of these ongoing combats, this song will validate your feelings and hopefully make you feel less alone.