Review Summary: Dave Gahan sets his soul free.
As shown on their previous albums, Soulsavers have a knack for creating a setting almost ripped from western movies. Their latest offering, The Light The Dead See
, is one of their most compelling works yet, this time being assisted by another tortured soul, Depeche Mode's very own Dave Gahan. This album can be seen as a testament as he joined the dead for two minutes back in 1996 when he overdosed on speedballs. Back then, Dave wasn't a creative force in his primary band to portray his own feelings especially towards his tormented life, but here he is let loose much like on his solo albums. The result is different from Soulsavers' previous albums featuring Mark Lanegan, even if the atmosphere is the same somber and mournful one. While Lanegan's deep voice gave more of a funeral feel, Gahan brings a more preachy tone to his melancholy akin to Depeche Mode's gem "Condemnation". Still, think of this album as a more organic version of DM's underrated Ultra
. Martin Gore has the same penchant for blues, but here, Soulsavers complete the setting with beautiful Hammond organ touches, harmonicas, nostalgic strings and gospel choirs giving everything a true American western feel.
There are some gorgeous highlights here that capture the listener's attention at a first listen. For example, first single "Longest Day" finds the band at their preachiest moment: starting with a simple piano line and some bowed strings, Gahan's sensual voice grows and is joined by a gospel choir creating an angelic atmosphere to his own confessions. Everything is simple but very effective, ending up as one of the best tracks in the band's catalogue. Same way goes for "Take Me Back Home", a wonderful ballad, where Dave mourns over a long lost love singing "Where all my stumbling misses/And all your wonderful kisses/That's where I want to be/That's just me". The humming voices backing him up and the Hammond organ make this song feel like it has been sung from inside a church. These songs and pretty much all the album as a whole feels as an honest, naked confession.
There is a lot to love here since the album holds the same formula throughout, but each track tells its own story. Tracks like "In The Morning" and "Bitterman" find Gahan at some of his most sincere and humble moments. The former portrays Dave questioning himself over his love loss, showcasing some of the most honest lyrics on the album (I was dreaming you were right here with me now[...]So I am nothing if I'm not with you), while the latter focuses on himself contemplating on his hedonistic and vice prone nature (There's a face in the mirror/That I don't understand/See the one that I wear is not who I am[...]You're such a bitter man/Doing all that you can/In the name of fun). Everything comes to a better ending with the album closer, "Tonight", where he shows some signs of optimism by admitting that it's not too late for salvation. Of course, everything here is covered ground if taken in account Depeche Mode's lyrical topics, but what makes this a refreshing listen is the music that really suits Dave's voice and lyrics. No matter how personal or fictive his words are, in the end they give the record the spark it needs.
Overall, The Light The Dead See
is a great album for both Depeche Mode and Soulsavers fans. There wasn't that much publicity around this release and it feels as if it was overlooked from the start. Nevertheless, it is a great achievement for both parties and everyone should give this a spin.