Okay, let's not mince words here. Over the history of Trent Reznor's time in the music industry, he's done a lot of incredible things. Groundbreaking, spectacular things.

There's one of the most legendary performances in the last 30 years of music, their set at Woodstock 94.

There's the entire album "The Downward Spiral" which from start to finish portrays one mans descent into depression and eventual suicide...which reads as maybe the most accomplished "dark" album ever written.

There's "The Fragile" which followed that, which although not as viscerally powerful as TDS, is arguably an even better musical accomplishment.

There's "Year Zero", another incredible concept album...with music to match the tone of the album.

There's the soundtrack to the video game Doom, there's the soundtracks to the movies The Social Network, and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

There's Nine Inch Nails' current place as maybe the most must-see live act in the world, who push the boundries of what is capable on a stage technically, as they did with their "Lights in the Sky" tour.

He's won Grammy's, he's won Oscars.

And yet lately, at times, he's appeared a little lost musically. Now, a lost Trent Reznor is still considerably better than most music around, but albums like "With Teeth" and "The Slip", while reasonable, lag pretty far behind the absurdly lofty standards he's set for himself at this point.

Which, after all that rambling, brings me to "Hesitation Marks"...an album that seemingly finds him thinking the exact same thing.

Scouring a great many of the songs lyrically finds Reznor playing with the idea of looking back on his career, who he was back when he was making albums like The Downward Spiral, back when he was an addict, back when he literally nearly killed himself(overdosing after accidentally buying china white heroin mistaking it for cocaine)...and looking at the man he is now, married and a father, clean and sober, and trying to work through how he got to where he is, and work through his place in the music industry now.

Put simply, this is the best work Trent has released since "The Fragile".

If you're looking for comparisons, this most closely resembles "The Fragile", while standout tracks include "Copy of A", "All Time Low", the impossibly catchy "Satellite" and maybe the best single song Trent's written since "The Day the World Went Away" off "The Fragile", "In Two".

I've read a few reviews saying this is an upbeat album, and while I suppose I can see where that comes from...this isn't exactly as happy as I think some have painted it as. There are upbeat songs for sure(most notably "Everything" which finds Trent singing in a very upbeat manner "I've survived, everything. I have tried, everything".

But as with most of Trent's best works, the album is a journey, that as I said, reflects on his time in the music industry, and his life now...and by the time "In Two" rolls around, we find Trent wondering why anyone would ever think he's changed, because he still feels the same despair he did all those years ago at times, despite what others may tell him. It all culminates in the finale "While I'm Still Here"(lyrically, the song Dark Noise is a musical out-tro), which finds him basically saying it's still just a matter of time before he fucks his life up again(the line "ticking time is running out" repeats, and the last line of the album is "Stay with me, hold me near, while I'm still right here").

Musically the album goes to every place you can ever imagine, and feels like equal parts Trent paying homage to his time in the industry with little dabs of everything from "Pretty Hate Machine" straight to "Ghosts", and with instruments ranging from the traditional synths/guitars/drums, to saxophones and others that would seem out of place anywhere but on this CD the way it's constructed.

It's been a long ride(Pretty Hate Machine came out 24 years ago now), but "Hesitation Marks" feels like equal parts a career retrospective, and a culmination of everything he's done in every walk of the music industry. It's a thoroughly engaging listen from note 1 to the last note played...as Reznor re-introduces himself to the music industry with his best work in over 10 years, and so far, the best CD I've listened to in 2013.