It's the end of the world - again.

On Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails' latest diatribe on the mount, the government conspires to brainwash its citizens, fanatical religious leaders dupe their followers with false promises of heaven, and war rages on every front.

In other words, it's standard sci-fi shtick. To goose this generic chaos into something that feels cutting edge, Reznor and his record company have "leaked," to the public and press, the addresses of various Web sites that lead to other Web sites, which together offer deliberately hazy hints as to what the hell's going on in this CD.

So much attention paid to the story line behind an album should be your warning that the music itself may be lacking. Sadly, it is.

Any fan of Nine Inch Nails' electro-gothic rock assaults will be struck numb by the familiarity of every electronic bloop and bleat on "Year Zero." Same goes for Reznor's melodies and beats, which, believe me, you've yelped and murmured in your bedrooms thousands of times before.

On Reznor's last CD - 2005's "With Teeth" - he chronicled the personal hell of coming back from drug abuse and, worse, of turning 40. At that point, he had a lot to say, especially since he hadn't released a Nine Inch Nails CD for six years. Now, having exorcised those demons, and come back to work sooner than usual, it's no surprise Reznor tried to get outside himself and make a grand statement on our world - if an obvious one. But in order to capture a world of disorientation and terror, you need music of equal shock and awe. Instead, "Year Zero" just recalls the dull yammerings of your average neighborhood crank.