If you miss the elaborate conspiracy theories of The X-Files, you'll love Nine Inch Nails' Year Zero. A sci-fi concept album whose end-of-days, paranoia-drenched story line has been disseminated via the Internet, it will appeal to every geek with Fox Mulder's ''I Want to Believe'' poster on their bedroom wall. (In fact, a key lyric finds NIN majordomo Trent Reznor proclaiming, ''I am trying to believe.'')
The good news is, it's entirely possible maybe even advisable to enjoy Year Zero without trolling dozens of kooky websites. Mostly, this is Captain Trent doing what he's always done: giving musical expression to torment, rage, sadness, lust, and impotence. As usual, he drives his messages home with his whisper-to-a-scream vocal melodrama and the most chaotically catchy tunes he and his arsenal of machines can generate.
Amid its carefully calibrated sonic assaults, Year Zero has a number of tracks that will stop you in yours. Sometimes, it's a matter of dropping the volume, as on the muted feedback/piano interlude ''Another Version of the Truth.'' Then there's the element of surprise upon hearing the industrial-strength Middle Eastern melodic patterns of ''The Warning.'' Even his use of electronics has shifted to a new level: ''Vessel'' evokes nothing so much as a sentient, schizophrenic computer having a nervous breakdown. Is the truth in here? Dunno, but Reznor's claim that ''I got my violence in high def ultra-realism'' sounds like gospel to us.