Album review: Gary Numan - Intruder


Gary Numan has been one of the strongest pillars of alternative culture throughout the years and with the monumental 'Savage' album released in 2018 he certainly became an even stronger presence in the Gothic scene. With this release, 'Intruder' feels like a sequel to 'Savage' continuing on with similar themes and ominous songs of the end of man. This is one of the finest albums of his career and of 2021 so far. This has been an incredible joy to review and I'm certain every Numan fan will fall in love with this latest release easily.

 

Gary Numan is set to release his brand new album ‘Intruder’ on May 21st. The album is now available to pre-order here.


‘Intruder’ is Numan’s 18th solo studio album and follows 2017’s ‘Savage: Songs From A Broken World’, which became his highest charting set in almost forty years when it debuted at #2 on the Official Albums Chart. That commercial success was complemented with wide-reaching critical acclaim from Mojo, The Quietus, PopMatters and more.


Whereas ‘Savage’ depicted earth as a barren wasteland in which humanity and culture had been largely crushed by the effects of global warming, ‘Intruder’ presents a fresh but complementary narrative. It’s a philosophical examination of a potential future apocalypse: the planet can only survive by purging its inhabitants.

Numan explains:

“‘Intruder’ looks at climate change from the planet’s point of view. If Earth could speak, and feel things the way we do, what would it say? How would it feel? The songs, for the most part, attempt to be that voice, or at least try to express what I believe the earth must feel at the moment.
The planet sees us as its children now grown into callous selfishness, with a total disregard for it’s well being. It feels betrayed, hurt and ravaged. Disillusioned and heartbroken it is now fighting back. Essentially, it considers human kind to be a virus attacking the planet. Climate change is the undeniable sign of the Earth saying enough is enough, and finally doing what it needs to do to get rid of us, and explaining why it feels it has to do it.”

The title track and lead single provides a tantalising taster of what to expect. As austere synths loom like shadows and industrial beats are detonated, Numan’s beguiling hook towers like a beacon in the darkness. It’s visionary, fierce and fascinating: three traits that have become hallmarks of the musician’s influential career. The song, he says, finds “the Earth angry and hostile, and more than willing to fight back.”

Partially written and recorded during lockdown, it’s no surprise that current circumstances have been assimilated into its themes. It’s especially evident in ‘The Gift’, which evolves from a sparse introduction into a resonant Middle-Eastern sonic motif. It imagines Covid-19 as the first weapon that the planet deploys in order to eradicate mankind and once again flourish.


While anger and vengeance rage in its opening chapters, ‘Intruder’ charts a wider spectrum of emotions. ‘Is This World Not Enough’ and ‘A Black Sun’ exude regret and then despair that this fate could’ve been avoided. The finale presents a black-hearted double-bill to bring the curtain down on the tale. First ‘Now And Forever’ offers a hope of eternity in the end days during its theatrical intensity, before the sparse, sorrowful ‘The End Of Dragons’ ends on the chilling reminder that what’s broken can’t always be fixed.


Select formats feature two bonus tracks: questions of faith in ‘When You Fall’ and a plaintive, stripped back version of ‘The End of Dragons’.


‘Intruder’ was recorded between sessions at Numan’s home studio in Los Angeles and at producer Ade Fenton’s studio in Bath. It represents their fifth studio album together after ‘Jagged’ (2006), ‘Dead Sun Rising’ (2011), ‘Splinter (Songs From A Broken Mind)’ (2013) and ‘Savage (Songs From A Broken World)’ (2017).


‘Intruder’ will be released on CD, deluxe CD, black heavyweight double-vinyl, picture disc double-vinyl and digital formats. There will also be three exclusive coloured double-vinyl formats: in red (at select indie stores), silver (from Amazon) and gold (from Gary Numan’s official store). The official store will also exclusively stock the cassette.


Since coming to prominence with era-defining hits such as ‘Cars’ and ‘Are ‘Friends’ Electric?’ (with Tubeway Army), Gary Numan has remained consistently creative and released a huge catalogue of work. His impact on electronic and alternative music has been hailed by pioneers such as Prince, David Bowie and Nine Inch Nails and remains impactful today, with Kanye West and Lady Gaga both crediting him as an influence. He was rewarded with the prestigious Inspiration Award at the Ivor Novellos in 2017 and shared his remarkable story with 2020’s candid autobiography ‘(R)evolution’.

 

Review


A slight change from usual, let's first look at the four singles already released rather than in track list order so that you get a better feel for the concept of the album.


First up we have the title track 'Intruder' and as you may have already read above. The Intruder is very much mankind itself making the Earth sick like a virus which is a concept we have become all too familiar with in regards to our rapidly deteriorating planet brought about by mankind's climate abuse and not just the obvious pandemic.


Intruder music video

'Exploring the idea of the modern world warning against and fighting back against humanity’s catastrophic behaviour, it proved that fans remain hugely fascinated by Numan’s still modernistic sound some four decades into his career.'


'Intruder' has so much depth to it. From the inquisitive and taunting lyrics, to the genuine questioning of faith and life itself. The quintessential sound of Gary's voice and yet another superbly catchy synth accompanied chorus delivers the feeling of not only premonition that this man is worth listening to, but that his entire career in sound has led up to this point. The weight of all this man's success and history in the industry rallies behind him as this track hits you will full force in a desperate attempt to muster what hope might be left in anyone that hears it. This is how you use a platform of fame and success to influence people in to changing the world. There is so much power in this track without it being forced or overbearing.


The introduction and musical samples of 'Intruder' are mechanical, industrial, and unmistakably cyber punk in nature which is then completely turned upside down with the chorus - bringing in those retro 80's synths and long drawn out notes that create both nostalgia for the past and fear for what is being lost now. It's almost like this has been written with the psychology of music as its main focus.

Simple in form yet brilliant in complexity.


I Am Screaming Audio video

At first, soft like a lullaby that transitions to a nightmare, this song drifts in and out of lucidity as you listen. Yet another nostalgia sparking song that makes you wonder how on Earth does Gary keep making such incredible songs in his signature way and yet sound so fresh each and every time?

There are touches of pop, Gothic, mid tempo, and even Nu-Metal that makes for a strangely motivational and energy packed track that would fit in to any scenario, be it an emotional film scene, an action sequence, or even in a variety of different themed nightclub dancefloors.

While ‘Intruder’ introduced the concept of a world withering in the face of its steady destruction by mankind, ‘I Am Screaming’ feels more like a desperate plea. It represents the planet rallying against its oppressors one final time, culminating with the haunting final warning: “You’re welcome to die with me.”

Musically there’s a striking contrast between the beautiful simplicity of the song’s introduction and the cacophonous, post-industrial aggression that emerges. It also highlights a contribution from Görkem Şen, the inventor of the yaybahar (an acoustic stringed synthesiser), which adds a portentous texture to the dynamic production.


The drums are the most impressive part of this for me. Not only do they provoke a sense of tribalism but also of impending doom. Like that of a prisoner brought before a firing squad, the drums march out a sinister warning. Drums are some of the most primal aspect of mans culture and to have them so defined in this track by an electronic and mechanical edge is a perfect metaphor for the very concept behind it. Mother nature stands ready to execute us if we don't heed the final warning.

Saints and Liars Official Video

Here's where the dark synths and far more Goth electronic keys and soundscapes come in to play. It feels like an epic ballad sweeping over all of Mankind's history with a sense of anger and disappointment. It is vibrant and truly this mans voice just gets better and better with age. It evokes such strong, deep connections as if he is speaking directly to your soul in this poignant manner.


‘Saints And Liars’ extends the album’s concept of the planet protesting and fighting back against mankind’s reckless occupation. Arriving towards the end of the narrative, the song exposes humanity’s hypocrisy as events reach the point of no return. If God and righteousness are so valued, how has this damage been allowed to happen?

Sonically, ‘Saints And Liars’ is infused with Numan’s ability to contrast the bleak with the beautiful. Industrial beats march with a mechanical intensity as destructed synths shimmer and then roar to the surface. Yet the counterpoint comes in the shape of a classically towering Numan hook along with bright, heavenly synths and eerie, textured backing vocals from the experimental electronica musician Gazelle Twin.

“Saints And Liars is the earth drawing attention to our blind faith in religion, in a fictitious God, who in reality does nothing for us, while at the same time abusing and destroying the planet, which does everything for us” - Numan.
 

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Now And Forever Audio Video

Melodic, Romantic, yet ultimately tragic. 'Now And Forever' has a similar energy to David Bowie's farewell track 'Lazarus'. This song however is much more of a reaching out to fans, letting them know that he is there for them as they have been there for him. Where faith in religion has failed, this is an anthem for hope and faith in one another and seemingly, that hope will always exist. At the very least this is my take whilst listening. As a popular show has made made famous recently, the line 'What is grief, if not love persevering?' Comes to mind.

The melody is slow, peaceful and delicate, yet unstoppable and ominous.


'Black Sun' is an apparent deep reflection upon Gary's life. Drone electronics compete with well orchestrated piano and strings creating a touching piece of audio art. Continuing with the touching effect of music, 'And It Breaks Me Again' is a beautifully tragic piece that pulls on some deep heart strings that I didn't quite know I had. Singing of the precious moments and shortness of life itself, it makes you realise how beautiful the world is and further adds to the truly horrifying realisation of how we are destroying that every single day with our way of life.

We have a sense of action and conflict in 'The Chosen'. There's so much dance energy pent up in this track that never quite spills out fully but it makes for one hell of an enjoyable track from start to finish. It is chaos and electronic dance blended in to a spine tingling offering with the lyrical context adding further depth and emotion to the intensity. This is the sort of track every action film needs. You can't get much more cyberpunk than this and it is by far my favourite track on the album.


The remaining four track on this album are also fantastic pieces of work but I don't wish to make this review too long. After all, you really need to hear this album yourself! What I will say is that 'The End Of Dragons' is an exceptional piece, made even more poignant in the alternative bonus version. It has the feel and emotion to it of the classic film 'The Crow' and I wonder now if any of this album was slightly inspired by that soundtrack. It is definitely worth getting the special edition just for this one song version alone. 'Is This World Not Enough' also has one amazingly powerful outro with some incredible guitar work!


Tracklist


Betrayed

The Gift I Am Screaming

Intruder

Is This World Not Enough

A Black Sun

The Chosen

And It Breaks Me Again

Saints And Liars

Now And Forever

The End of Dragons

When You Fall (Bonus track on deluxe CD, vinyl and digital formats)

The End of Dragons (alt piano) (Bonus track on vinyl and digital formats)


Conclusion


Gary Numan has always been far ahead of any other artist. Whilst the rest of the world catches up with the cyberpunk trend, Gary was already doing that in his last album and this now feels like post-cyberpunk. It is fresh, it is angry, it is the disappointment outspoken for all of us at the way the world has turned out.

This album speaks incredible volumes not just for the concept it portrays but in immense recognition of his career. This album feels like a huge thank you from Gary and with that thanks he has presented a gift that fans of any Numan era will easily find a place for in their hearts.

This man is always at the cutting edge and we are so, so lucky to have such a talented artists pushing these kinds of messages and incredible songs that don't fit the archaic and bland mould of music that current pop culture continues to push.


Complex and artistic, Poignant and reflective; This album is a soulful cry out in to the void. There is hope and there is despair in equal measure in an album that blends nostalgia and fresh boundaries showcasing Gary Numan's incredible career of talent that shows no signs of stopping.


Scores:


Technicality: 9/10

Dance factor: 8.5/10

Energy: 9/10

Vocals: 10/10

Re-play value: 10/10

Overall score: 9.3 / 10

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