Christmeister |Lively Art, 1989|
1. Dead Inside, 2. Cash, 3.Bliss, 4. Balance Of Terror, 5. Eugene, 6. Frantic, 7. What, 8. Christmeister, 9. Flesh
Numb is essentially Don Gordon’s project; a Canadian musician from Vancouver, who gave life to a remarkable synth-pop band called "Images In Vogue" with Dale Martindale, Gary Nelson, Kevin Crompton (cEvin Key of Skinny Puppy), Gary Smith, and Joe Vizvary in the early 80's. Gordon left "Images In Vogue" in the mid 80’s and focused his inspiration on his new "creature" - Numb.
It makes me smile that from a carefree synth-pop band, two dark and experimental projects like Numb and Skinny Puppy were born; which characterized the Cyber-Industrial Canadian scene, along with Front Line Assembly. Also, Gary Smith was the First Assistant Director of the motion picture: Hellraiser - Hellseeker!
Numb (Gordon, Hall, Stubbs) published two albums, "Blue Light" and "Numb" in 1987 (if you like "Bites" and "Remission" by Skinny Puppy, you can’t live without these releases), but for the next album Blair Dobson took Stubbs’ place both for the song-writing/Vocals and the trio (assisted by Anthony Valcic and Greg Reely) recorded Christmeister.
The album, originally composed of 9 songs, was released twenty years ago (1989) by Oceana Records in the U.S. and by Lively Art in Europe. Of course these publications are now out of print and hard to find, but you can easily buy the re-issue version from Metropolis Records / KK Records published in 1996, including the single "Bliss" originally published in 1991, also containing three “Bliss” remixes. All of them highlight a different aspect of the song, and another excellent track called "Stiff" appears in the compilation along with "13" released by Lively Art. Otherwise there is the digital version available on Amazon.
This album obviously can't be classified as "pure" Industrial Rock, but I believe that its influence has been primary for Electro-Industrial, and significant for the American Coldwave Movement, along with other similar genres in subsequent years. In fact... Let’s see what other albums were published in the same year: Skinny Puppy and Front Line Assembly published "Rabies", "Gashed Senses" & "Crossfire", in Canada. In the U.S.A., Ministry published "The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste", NIN and Die Warzau debuted with "Pretty Hate Machine" and "Disco Rigido". In Germany, Einsturzende Neubauten published "Haus Der Luge", and KMFDM released their third album "UAIOE". The English were going crazy for Nitzer Ebb’s "Belief" and Godhead’s "Streetcleaner" (precursor of Industrial Metal), while Treponem Pal and The Young Gods put out their self-titled albums in France and Switzerland forging a new genre.
When I think of 1989, music releases were not all that bad! ;) Industrial Rock, as we know it now, was taking shape. The sound was molding through experimentation and crossovers between different musical genres. Albums such as those mentioned above influenced artists of such labels as Re-constriction, Fifth Colvmn, Cop International and 21st Circuitry.
After this introduction let’s focus on "Christmeister", which is an epic album, and a masterpiece to me. Why? because in 9 of 13 songs (with the extra 4 songs on the Metropolis Reissue) Gordon, Dave Hall and Dobson enclosed some of the most obscure and perverse context of thought the human mind can generate.
Sharp and shrill screams such as Jack the Ripper’ seem bladed with dirty guitars, along with "Dead Inside" and "Cash"; while "Bliss" proceeds slowly in a mechanical gait, accompanied by percussion, synths, and a pneumatic drill (a memorable use of this tool made by Einsturzende Neubauten in the song “Steh Auf Berlin”, if you can believe that!).
"Balance Of Terror" is a digression into ambient/noise, which confirms the strong Artistic/Expressionist vocation of this band, a little gem that would fit perfectly as a soundtrack to some dark, horror movie. The anxiety and tension generated by the song is only a prelude to what awaits us in "Eugene", and its lyrics: "Do not mess with Eugene Nesmith, Do not fuck with him at all", a threat or even advice that should be taken literally. The torn shouting of Dobson went even further into a direction where only Nivek Ogre (Skinny Puppy) had dared, sounding like a blanket of fog is crashing down on the stunned listener.
"Frantic" sounds like crashing against a wall at a speed of 200 mph, wilder than "Deity" (Ministry) and "Fascist Joke Itch" (Skinny Puppy) put together... a powerful post-industrial punk rock song. " What" is one of my favorite songs, pervaded by Dobson’s unique voice, while " Christmeister" is another gloomy taste of how much the human mind is corrupted, and filled with primordial instincts and intentions. " Flesh" is a superb instrumental song, just as amazing as Skinny Puppy’s "The Centre Bullet" but less melancholic.
After this collaboration, Gordon and Dobson went their separate ways; Dobson concentrated his energy completely to his company: "Anthill Media" (a curiosity: the distinctive Numb graphic logo is done by Blair Dobson), and later joined "Dead Surf Kiss". Gordon continued the exploration of human madness with different singers: Conan Hunter took Dobson’s place, and Numb published yet another great album "Death On The installment Plan" in 1993 that helped to define the classic Coldwave sound of Re-Constriction Records, followed by the more quiet "Wasted Sky" in 1994.
The last two Numb albums "Blood Meridian" and "Language Of Silence", featuring David Collings (formerly of "The Fourth Man") on vocals, are two releases of pure Techno-Industrial.
(Marco Gariboldi. Proofreading: Scott M. Owens)