The Slip is a return to form for Nine Inch Nails, where process takes a back seat to songwriting. It's a dark and muscular collection of bare-bones tracks that find balance between power grooves and moody, atmospheric detours. "1,000,000," "Discipline" and "Echoplex" tap into the sharp industrial-rock melodies that gave the first half of NIN's career so much color. "Lights in the Sky" is a grown-up counterpart to the machine balladry of "Something I Can Never Have" from Pretty Hate Machine. But Trent isn't rehashing former glories. The Slip feels so natural and complete that it takes shape as one of his most cohesive albums yet, and is proof positive that the industrial-pop innovator's gears are only running more smoothly with age. 4 stars
Nine Inch Nails plays the Arena at Gwinnett Center w/ Deerhunter. $39.50-$53.50. Wed., Aug. 13. 7 p.m. www.ticketmaster.com.