Are Soulsavers becoming the ‘go to’ band for redemption? Mark Lanegan certainly thought so, for his contributions to the duo’s second and third albums were indeed spiritually cleansing, examining demons under a magnifying glass but emerging ultimately stronger for the experience.
Now that the former Screaming Trees singer is busy with his own projects, Dave Gahan has stepped in to fill the void – and the transition appears to have been entirely instinctive and seamless, for Gahan and Lanegan have a lot in common. Both have had colourful lives, shall we say, that have led to near-death experiences, and, as they get older, both have increasingly vivid baritone voices that communicate with direct emotion. Judging by the feelings that freely flow on this album, it has once again proved a hugely uplifting experience for all involved.
Anyone familiar with the Soulsavers work will know that redemption comes at a price, however – and some of this music is not for the faint hearted. Yet there is a feeling that this is some of the most honest music Gahan has ever sung. The lyrics really do come straight from the heart, even more so than on Songs Of Faith And Devotion, the Depeche Mode album that sits closest to this record.
Yet the Soulsavers proceed in a more acoustic form, and that gives the music more room to live and breathe, and as a consequence it doesn’t come across as heavy as that wonderful album did at times. There is no In Your Room here, but at the same time Gahan reaches for, and finds, some dark emotional undercurrents. Lyrics like “why can’t you hear me, why can’t you heal me” from In The Morning offer glimpses in to the depths, but when reward is found, the message is similarly direct. “You gave me more than I deserve, you gave me peace”, exalts the singer on Just Try.
The arrangements are very fine indeed, the Soulsavers building on their already impressive grasp of orchestration. The prelude, La Ribera, with its nod towards a Western, sets the scene as a dry desert, while some of the short string section interludes that punctuate Longest Day in particular are beautifully judged, helping it prove its worth as the finest song on the album. Intentionally or not, The Light The Dead See charts a day in the life – from the brooding but intoxicating In The Morning to the final salvation of Tonight.
All of which heightens expectation for Depeche Mode’s 13th album, coming as it will off the back of some very profitable side projects for its main protagonists, Gahan and Gore. But to think of the band too much at this point would be to overshadow the Soulsavers themselves, who have another stellar album to add to their canon. Redemption never sounded so good.