Sound — 8
The extensive use of live drums gives the album a very nice unified feel. While guitars and synths may change, the drums remain a constant. There are fewer layers and a greatly reduced density to the songs, but the elements that remain form a stripped-down and focused core devoid of clutter. Guitar tones, rhythms, basslines, and melodies are unmistakably Nine Inch Nails, but there is lacking a certain freshness.
Lyrics — 6
The lyrics seem honest, forceful, and delivered within a focused state of mind. However, the content of the lyrics and the messages are tired and repetitive. You would expect to see these coming from an angst-filled troubled youth, not a more mature human being.
Overall Impression — 8
Refreshing, in a sense, as a follow-up to The Fragile. It is a return to the songcrafting that made Nine Inch Nails as popular as it is. However, the disappointingly re-hashed lyrical themes take much from this album. There are many fans of Trent Reznor that have since moved on because they have matured and outgrown the simplistic and adolescent lyrical style. This album does not really call to them.