Viral marketing agency 42 Entertainment has created a network of Web sites to promote the forthcoming album Year Zero from industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails, Digit has learned.

The network is based around a series of homepages and messageboards from a dystopian future, where the US is a fundamentalist Christian-controlled police state and many people are hooked on a new synthetic drug called Opal. The network begins from anotherversionofthetruth.com, where visitors can peel away a positive veneer using the mouse to reveal a darker world underneath.

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In true viral fashion, the link to original site was in a message hidden in a picture of a tour T-shirt, with certain letters highlighted. This was allegedly picked up by fans, who passed on the information to others at fansites such as <a href=echoingthesound.org. Other techniques used to intrigue fans include codes to crack such as Morse and references to Biblical verses.

Other sites in the campaign include iamtryingtobelieve.com, bethehammer.net, 105thairbornecrusaders.com, and churchofplano.com. All of the sites have a distorted overlay, a graphical technique used many times on Nine Inch Nails' packaging and materials.

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<a href=42 Entertainment is best known for its I Love Bees 'alternative reality game' for the Microsoft/Bungie's Halo 2, which also included a network of Web sites but also included online elements where participants would receive phone calls and jars on honey in the post.

[Since this story was originally posted, it has been brought to our attention that although echoingthesound.org was set-up by the same private domain registrar as the viral sites, it has been running since 2003 – so is very unlikely to have been created as part of the Year Zero ARG.]