Music Review - Language of Silence by Numb
Updated: Nov 30, 2018
Once more on the road-trip to Hell, this time with feeling!
Part two of the Numb review extravaganza; for more of my Numb backstory, see my review for their previous album Blood Meridian.
By the time I had discovered Numb, I was deep within the throes of an overload of new electronic music that I had hitherto never been exposed to. From EBM/Futurepop acts like Apoptygma Berzerk, Covenant, and VNV Nation to more militarized industrial like Funker Vogt and Lights of Euphoria, and from oddities like Terminal Sect to darkwave/industrial hybrids like In Strict Confidence, I was shelling out money like crazy to add these European imports to my ever-expanding collection of CD’s and vinyl. I’m sure I drove people crazy as I continually tried to turn them on to these non-mainstream artists. Some bands I could peddle on folks, others were a no-go. And because of the harshness of their music, Numb was consistently avoided by my peers. But while they shunned it, I ate it up. For some reason I still can’t truly articulate, the harshness of bands like Numb just spoke to me on some primal level, and still does to this day. I purchased Blood Meridian first, because that’s all that Tower Records had at the time, but it wasn’t long before I added Language of Silence to my collection, and that’s when I truly became a fan of their specific brand of heavy industrial.
Sustains the dirty taste of disbelief.
Released the following year, Language of Silence was a natural continuation of the direction that Numb was taking after the release of Blood Meridian in 1997. Slicker production, more focused structures, less instrumentals, and the introduction of hi-hats and other more involved percussion all served to give Language of Silence a more mature sound. Ironically, outside of these changes/innovations, Language of Silence followed the Blood Meridian template almost to a T. 10 songs apiece, nearly the exact same runtime, the one-two punch of two solid & brutal opening cuts, and roughly the same placement of slower tracks & heavier tracks. In fact, aside from the better production touches, most fans would be hard pressed to say which songs were from which album. They are essentially two sides to the same coin. To put it another way; if you weren’t a fan of Numb’s other offerings (and a lot of people aren’t), this album was going to do nothing to change your mind.
Anyways, enough of MY noise, let’s get on to reviewing the wonderful noise that is Language of Silence.
Album opener Respect leaps out of the gate ready to race, providing a short stutter-step noise intro before absolutely assaulting the listener with harsh sequences, a driving four-on-the-floor beat, and David Collings’ mildly treated, but still irate, vocal delivery. Fans of Dirt and Blind from Blood Meridian will feel right at home here. This is just an extension of those heavy-hitting songs, with just a little more digital brutality. Percussion is more coherent on this album, and Respect absolutely benefits, with hi-hats punctuating the sequences, samples, and synths, helping to expand the scope of the song. Straight up, Respect is a beast, pure and simple.
Obsessive strategy, regret the duties of routine.
But no matter how much power Respect has, the album’s second track Suspended really shows just how heavy Numb can be when they put their minds to it. Despite a minor pace breakdown near the end of the track, Suspended simply doesn’t let up, featuring arpeggiated synths, a wicked drum beat, furiously delivered vocals, and unrelenting loops and samples. This is the heaviest track on Language of Silence, and also one of the shortest. And while I generally like longer songs, Suspended is just long enough to impact, but not so long that it overstays its welcome. It really is the best that Numb has to offer, and a great track to listen to when you’re angry.
And then we go from the heaviest track to Deviation, which is one of the more stripped down songs on Language of Silence. Interestingly enough, though it’s missing the general stomp-stomp-crush of Numb’s more violent affairs, Deviation still works decently well. It’s more texture over substance, featuring much less accompaniment, but when the chorus hits, it just has a certain appeal. David Collings sings in his best Bill Leeb impersonation, and that, mixed with the ominous overtones provided by the samples & loops which fade in and out, give Deviation a suitably creepy vibe. The biggest downside to the song is that it’s overlong for what it delivers, clocking in a few seconds over 8 minutes, but feeling much longer.
Where Deviation stripped away the punch and provided a slower song, Illumination Rounds strips out the vocals and provides the album’s first instrumental song. It’s pretty on par with Numb’s other instrumental offerings, featuring an assorted mix of samples and loops, and picking up the pace a bit near the end while never really giving solid oomph. Honestly, just a middle of the road offering.
No Remorse almost sounds like it’s going to be an extension of Illumination Rounds, starting out slowly, and taking a full minute before kicking into gear. This is a very percussion heavy track, with the deep drum beat overshadowing everything else. Despite the incessant march of the beat and accompanying electronic noises, No Remorse is a little too repetitive for its own good, struggling to give listeners enough variety to keep them fully engaged. A decidedly hook-less chorus doesn’t help matters any.
Caught by disease, by default, by destiny.
Clocking in at eight minutes and six seconds, Closer is the longest song on Language of Silence. The buildup is slow and tense, with samples and noise slowly building up over time, before the drum beat finally kicks in near the three minute mark. Featuring vocals that are buried in the mix, it almost comes across as another instrumental. Ultimately, Closer is decently solid, but doesn’t feature much in the way of gripping loops or synth lines to help it stand out. Much like Deviation¸ this one is overlong.
Thankfully, Don Gordon & co. seemed to know that the album was starting to slump, because Closer is followed by Defiler, another beast of a track, and the one with arguably the catchiest chorus. Another percussion heavy song, Defiler benefits from some great looping, left & right channel hopping, and a truly monstrous beat. The sequencers take a back seat to the samples and loops, and the vocals are just as angry as ever. A bass-heavy breakdown in the middle of the song gives it room to breathe, adding a slightly calmer soundscape before everything gets dialed back to eleven for the finale and outro.
Just because there are less instrumental tracks this time around, doesn’t mean they are gone entirely. With a runtime of four and a half minutes, vocal-less Benthos is certainly the oddest song on the album, and not because it sounds weird (it really doesn’t), but more because it’s just so barebones and repetitive. Good subs will push the lows to the forefront, but aside from some spacey & eerie synths and minimal samples running through, there’s no much going on. It’s not a bad song per se…it’s just not much of a song at all, more nightmare fuel than anything else.
Things pick back up a bit with Immolate, a moderately paced offering that plays across the left & right channels while bass-heavy sequences trudge along dutifully. Lows are well represented between the drums and samples, while a hi-hat takes care of the higher percussion notes. Though it’s definitely more engaging than the songs it is situated between, Immolate is ultimately a middle-of-the-road offering, not quite standing up to the greats on Language of Silence.
Album closer Distorted Relations sticks far too close to the established template from Blood Meridian, offering another outro track that really doesn’t do much. Beat-free, much like Benthos, and offering up only random noises, samples, and audio oddities, Distorted Relations feels like an obligation add, something to help the album wind down and fade out. Of course, nobody would want 60 minutes of Defiler, as that would be TOO much. But by the same token, ending an album with unengaging instrumentals doesn’t really help either. Sadly, at six and a half minutes, Distorted Relations is a little too long for its own good.
Shades of warmth become a junkie's bonfire fix.
Bonus Review – Blood (Crash And Bleed) from the Metropolis compilation album Electropolis, Vol. 1, released in 1998. This was actually the first Numb song I ever heard, as it was on one of the first albums I had purchased when I moved to Virginia. I think we arrived on the East Coast in July of 98, and this compilation had just been released the month prior. At the time, the only bands I knew from this compilation were FLA, wumpscut, Haujobb, and Mentallo & The Fixer, so my musical boundaries were soon to be greatly expanded. The Crash and Bleed remix basically takes a song from their Wasted Sky album, which was a stripped down affair, and totally reworks it with all the electronic tricks they’d learned during the recording of Blood Meridian and Language of Silence. Powerful samples and loops give structure to the song, a frenetic hi-hat helps keep the time, and a pulsing bassline gives it a momentum that was severely lacking in the original version. It almost seems OVER produced at times, so full of effects, samples, and sounds that they can seem to get lost in the mix. Clocking in at 8:32, Blood (Crash And Bleed) is Numb’s magnum opus, and a sign of where they could have been heading before they called it quits shortly after this compilation album was released. And since it was my intro song to Numb, it’s still one of my all-time favs.
And that wraps up my two-for special for Numb reviews! Though they aren’t for everyone, I really enjoyed the final two albums from this Canadian industrial outfit. They are a definite slice of 90’s industrial life, offering up a vibe and style of music that doesn’t really exist anymore. If you feel like listening to something that homicidal robots might enjoy while they are slaughtering hapless humans, then you might feel right at home with Language of Silence! Check it out!
4 out of 5 deviant and defiant stars!