This Soulsavers article was written by Leonardo Verzaro, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Gavin Wells.
Soulsavers’ new album ‘Angels and Ghosts’ is the fifth in their career and the second written and conceived together with Depeche Mode front-man Dave Gahan. The project is known for being both a production team and a work-in-progress band boasting prestigious collaborations with Richard Hawley, Mike Patton and above all Mark Lanegan. Speaking of which, ‘Broken’ was a remarkable result back in 2007.
Rich Machin’s search for deep-tone sharp vocals to sail a mystic river of blues and gospel is evidently a Soulsavers trademark and finds in Gahan a stupendous interpreter. Besides, the latter’s always been looking at his solo-career as a break off Depeche Mode’s engine and a chance to stretch out of his comfort zone. It must have been love at first sight between the two since ‘The Light the Dead See’ (2012).
In a recent interview Gahan admits he never stopped working across the Pond with Machin and writing new material in between the legs of the Delta Machine Tour: “We just followed the idea, me and Rich we’re both interested in the same kind of music”. The collaboration is built out of a strong musical affinity flowing into an honest and in places intense piece of music. Just don’t be misled by that “Dave Gahan and Soulsavers” on the cover: marketing-wise, the first name attracts more than the second, but the record’s credits should be equally shared.
‘Angels and Ghosts’ gently swings from light to darkness through nine songs about love, religion and the existential search for redemption. All of these motifs find in this mixture of blues and gospel their breeding ground. This music ambience has always been very influential even for the sound of Depeche Mode as it enables Gahan to express it and perfectly embody it.
The singer goes through an impeccable immersion into any role he plays throughout the album. He’s sometimes a preacher speaking to his congregation: “When you look around it’s so profound what we can do/You and me, all of us here we’re coming through”; he turns into an intimate crooner in the ballad ‘Don’t Cry’ and he’s desperately cursed in ‘You Owe Me’: “I’m under your spell, I’m holding so tight/I feel cold and disheveled, I’m as blue as your eyes”.
Musically, some pieces of arrangement stand out for grandeur: an amazing work has been made on the backing vocals, whose gospel nature helps Gahan’s voice sounding magniloquent. Soulsavers are very good musicians: their taste for a vintage analogue sound and the choice of instruments like slide-guitars, cellos, jazz-drums and trumpets really puts the record into a timeless evocative dimension. Some of these tracks show a cinematic nature, like they were part of a musical or better a revival: in the final ‘My Sun’ echoes of Morricone’s epic resound. Some other are destined to buzz in your ears for long, like the single ‘All of This and Nothing’.
What’s really missing out of this record is that attitude, that insolent attractiveness that makes Dave Gahan a true-born party animal on stage. ‘Angels and Ghosts’ lacks energy here and there and sometimes sounds schmaltzy and melodramatic. The beautiful cover photograph taken by Gahan’s daughter shows him shrieking against the camera: well, maybe there might have been expected some more roaring.
‘Angels and Ghosts’ is out now via Columbia Records.