October 25, 1999 12:00 PM

Nine Inch Nails (Nothing)

Returning from a five-year absence, Nine Inch Nails auteur Trent Reznor discovers a sunny pop landscape beyond the once angry seas of the alternative rock he helped mold. As fans know, the anti-pop maestro is a backstreet boy of a different stripe, and on this much anticipated new double CD, he dwells where the sun rarely shines. With more than 100 minutes of uneasy listening packed into these 23 tracks, Reznor maps an aural universe that is positively hellish—dense with static and all manner of dissonant and chaotic electronic noise. But Reznor, who sings numbers like “Somewhat Damaged” and “The Wretched” in a voice pinched by anguish, finds freedom from torment in the complex, propulsive polyrhythms, ringing piano chords and wisps of melody that burst like divine light onto the dark sonic mix.

Bottom Line: Melody fights for life in a foreboding but brilliantly rendered musical underworld

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