A reworked collection of songs previously discarded from several studio albums, Gary Numan's 20th effort, Dead Son Rising, suggests that the electro-pop pioneer should scrabble around for any more leftovers lurking in the vaults. For despite its pick and mix approach, the follow-up to 2006's Jagged (whose producer, Ade Fenton, also features again here) is arguably his most cohesive and consistent effort since his early-'80s heyday. Of course, it's difficult to ignore the huge Trent Reznor-sized shadow that looms over the majority of its 12 tracks, with the bombastic synths, crunching riffs, and menacing vocals on the likes of "When the Sky Bleeds, He Will Come" and "Big Noise Transmission" owing more than a nod to the industrial electro-metal of The Fragile. But neatly coming full circle, Nine Inch Nails' admittance of the influence Numan had on their career means the former Tubeway Army frontman has perhaps more right than anyone to borrow back a few ideas. Especially when they are as convincing as the likes of opening track "Resurrection," an unsettling and doom-laden ambient instrumental, which along with the brooding Depeche Mode-esque electro ballad "Dead Sun Rising" and the ghostly atmospherics of "We Are the Lost" would be perfectly suited to the end credits of a sci-fi horror movie. Elsewhere, "The Fall," an epic slice of sleazy '80s-tinged electro, shows the whole nu-synth movement how it's really done, while Numan reveals a rare vulnerability on the stark piano hooks and hushed whispered melodies of "Not the Love We Dream Of" and the solemn tale of obsession "For the Rest of My Life." It's a shame, then, that the album finishes with a whimper rather than a bang, as the stripped-back instrumental versions of the latter two take away the compelling elements of the originals, while the meandering "Into Battle" sounds like the half-finished demo that it might possibly have been. Nevertheless, it's impressive that over 30 years into his career, Numan isn't content to just trade on former glories, and while Dead Son Rising isn't likely to propel him back into the mainstream, it's an impressively bold affair that ensures his cult status will remain intact.
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AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien