Sacrifice is a 1994 album by Gary Numan. Its release followed a self-acknowledged career low point, Machine + Soul (1992), and is often cited as marking the start of a critical and artistic rejuvenation for the one-time pop star. The album was released in the US in 1997 with a different cover by Joseph Michael Linsner, and a new title, Dawn, based on the comic book character of the same name, but the track listing was identical.
On Sacrifice, paraphernalia which Numan had previously, by his own admission, relied upon in a bid to make his music more 'radio-friendly', such as saxophone solos, dance rhythms and female backing vocals, were dropped in favour of a back-to-basics approach that saw him playing practically all instruments himself. The result was a dirty industrial sound with darkwave undertones; a departure from preceding albums that was seen by many critics and fans as a return to the best features of his classic early work: brooding synthesizers, distorted guitars and a highly personal lyrical perspective.
A number of tracks displayed an antipathy towards religion, a stance that had been noted in isolated songs from early in Numan’s career but which became more pronounced on this album and its successors, Exile (1997) and Pure (2000). The single released from the album, "A Question of Faith", appeared to cast the singer as a fallen angel ("I dare you to judge me / Now God has disowned me"), a theme that would dominate Exile, before concluding: "They kneel down / Praise God / Shout Hallelujah ... When children kill children / Don’t it make them wonder? / Don’t it make them question their faith?"; the reference "...when children kill children..." was made about the then-recent murder of Jamie Bolger. Numan later stated that whilst Exile was a fictional story, "Sacrifice looks at my actual beliefs".
Amongst the other tracks on the album, "Magic" was inspired partly by Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings; "Bleed" and "Deadliner" reflected a fear of sleep and of nightmares becoming real, the latter song taking its inspiration from a dream that Numan once had and featuring semi-spoken verses; "You Walk in My Soul" was an ode to his future wife Gemma O’Neill; "Love and Napalm" was a guitar-driven number whose distinctive riff recalled the early days of Tubeway Army.
In a 2000 interview, Numan described his approach to the recording. Prior to Sacrifice, "I spent quite a few years just trying to write songs that would get me back on the radio". For the new album, "I just went right back to the way I was when I was a teenager, first time writing songs, with all the enthusiasm for it". The resultant music, whilst not a commercial success, garnered Numan his best notices in years and coincided with the beginnings of a critical reassessment of his career and acknowledgment of his influence on such artists as Nine Inch Nails, Foo Fighters, Marilyn Manson, The Magnetic Fields, The Prodigy and Afrika Bambaataa.
An 'Extended' version of Sacrifice, approximately half as long again as the original, was released in 1995. The same year, most of the tracks appeared on Dark Light, Numan’s live recording from the Sacrifice tour.
In 1999 the album was reissued with bonus tracks in the UK (Eagle Records) and US (Cleopatra Records). Like with other reissues of albums originally released on Numa Records, the US version had a somewhat different selection of bonus tracks as well as altered artwork.