There’s something about 2017 and underwhelming (if consistent) industrial rock releases, and I had expected Gary Numan to add to the pile. However, Savage: Songs from a Broken World is much more ambitious than it first appears. The album carries apocalypse in its reverberations, with Numan’s unmistakable voice lonely against a landscape of distorted synths.
The album's first half is the strongest: ’Bed of Thorns’ begs to be played loud, with its saturated arrangement and cinematic strings, while ‘My Name Is Ruin’ harks back to ‘Nine Inch Nails’ and emphasises Numan’s suitability for -- and divergence from -- typical industrial rock. There is no hyper-masculine posturing for Numan, only raw pain and alienation, which complements Ade Fenton’s harsh production well.
There is no hyper-masculine posturing for Numan, only raw pain and alienation.
Even as Numan starts to lapse into cliché, as with the maudlin melody of ‘The End of Things’, his composition always manages to take the listener by surprise, and the chorus’ key change rescues this song from monotony. 'And It All Began With You’ is also another good example of this. The piano is side chained through the chorus, forcing the songwriting alone to hold the listener’s attention: the track's simple melody, in parallel to Numan’s howling falsetto, is a winner.
It is towards the album’s conclusion that things start to deteriorate. Drums are looped ad nauseam in ‘What God Intended’, chord progressions start to rely on previous successes from earlier albums (most egregiously in the closer, ‘Broken’, which sounds like it belongs to Haunted). Meanwhile, ‘When the World Comes Apart’ fails to add anything new to the Numan canon and goes on for far too long.
Most of these problems can be traced to the production taking precedence over the substance, which if reversed, might make these tracks more memorable. Overall, though, Savage is still an enjoyable listen, and a worthy addition to any Numanoid’s collection.