With 1994's "The Downward Spiral," Trent Reznor, the driven musician who is Nine Inch Nails, created a new kind of propulsive rock utilizing a unique palette of synthesized sounds for an album that stands as a sonic classic, even if the angst and self-loathing of the lyrics was hard to stomach at the time and has aged pretty poorly. Reznor fell into his own downward spiral of drug and alcohol abuse after its release, cleaned up during a stint in rehab, and portrayed his tender emotional state with the beautiful and ambitious double album "The Fragile" in 1999. But its commercial failure prompted him to fall off the wagon, and he hasn't been heard from since.

Now, a once-again clean-and-sober, 39-year-old Reznor has re-emerged after a six-year wait on "With Teeth," and faithful fans are saying this disc is the rightful follow-up to "The Downward Spiral." That may be true lyrically: The anger here is directed outward toward the evils and hypocrisies in the world -- as on the bilious single, "The Hand That Feeds" -- rather than inward at himself, and many of the tracks display a new (for Reznor) warmth toward humanity and belief in the power of redemption.

Sonically, however, the studio craftsman breaks no new ground, replacing the strange electronic constructions that made the rhythms and melodies so distinctive on "The Downward Spiral" with more conventional guitar and drum sounds, and paring down the layered productions for a more minimal industrial-thrash approach in the style of 1989's "Pretty Hate Machine" and 1992's "Broken." As a result, tracks such as "You Know What You Are?" and "The Line Begins to Blur" offer the requisite rollercoaster thrills and chills, but you have the distinct feeling you've taken this ride with Reznor before, and the amusement park is never as much fun when you know what's coming around the bend.

Jim DeRogatis