After bottoming out professionally and critically with the failed 1992 sellout Machine + Soul, Gary Numan officially began his comeback with Sacrifice, an album that found him, for the first time in years, perfectly in step with the Zeitgeist. Playing more guitar than he had since his Tubeway Army days and pumping up the metallic rhythms that had animated his late-'80s work, Numan forged a sound with striking similarities to the industrial clangor of artists like Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson, who were just beginning their ascendance. But just as important in staking Numan's claim as a godfather to, and contemporary of, such bands was his new lyrical focus; while he'd once painted pictures of sci-fi squalor, Sacrifice played up an even darker side, abandoning futuristic scenarios for horror stories straight out of Clive Barker ("Deadliner") and a relentless atheism that made this material his bleakest ever. (The exception is "You Walk in My Soul," a paean to his soon-to-be wife, Gemma O'Neil, that recalled the light touch of albums like Dance.) The gloomy outlook (reinforced by the all-black album cover) was tailor-made for the times, especially among fans of the electronic goth mutation known as darkwave, who began providing Numan with a new and devoted audience. It also helped kill the idea that he was one of the former '80s stars then beginning to resurface to play their old hits. While it's hardly easy or pleasant listening, Sacrifice did prove that, unlike those contemporaries, Numan had something left in the tank creatively. Perhaps just as significantly, the album kicked off a reexamination of his '80s material, often savaged at the time of its release but deserving of a much better fate.
by Dan LeRoy