Soulsavers – The Light The Dead See (May 21, 2012)
The Light The Dead See starts with gloomy La Ribera, very much resembling music from western movies, when the main hero not less heroically falls from a single bullet down to the dusty ground and we can’t yet make up our minds whether he’s dead or still has a chance to survive. We can’t be sure of whether the story we’re about to be told is that of Life or Death, and that’s the point at which we start our journey with Soulsavers and Dave Gahan, as well.
“All I saw and all I felt at first was complete darkness. I’ve never been in a space that was blacker, and I remember feeling that whatever it was I was doing, it was really wrong”, Gahan had told once when talking about the drug overdose that led to Depeche Mode vocalist’s clinical death back in the 90s, preceded by a suicide attempt a while before that. The self-destructive behavior could be well explained then by the idea of trying to find light, salvation, hope in the depressing and dark surroundings that Dave had found (or lost, in this case) himself in.
It’s not clear much to what extend has Dave Gahan contributed to the album. What’s obvious is that It’s not just his vocals or lyrics, no. His own near-death experience and those several minutes of non-beating heart seem to be the main subject of the album, intertwined with romanticism that was always dominating in both Gahan’s solo works and Soulsavers’ previous albums.
Minimalistic acoustic guitars sometimes joined with strings and organ in the background create the main western-like, or should we say country/gospel-like sound of the album, the very soul of it. Every now and then the sound would rise, get aggressive, noisy, and then fade back to the minimalism, as if leaving us in an empty room with our own restless thoughts. Gahan’s voice follows this pattern, sounding like that of a tired, weary person just looking for rest, for a place to lay his head. And just like the music, every now and then his voice would rise, get angry and overall emotional, asking for something, demanding, and then calming down again, hopeless and tired. Take Me Back Home is a great example of that.
Themes of life and death, depression and hope are typical for Soulsavers, too, continued over the years and grown into some kind of a missionary idea – never give up. Hold on to something you feel is worth holding on to. Be that God you believe in or Love, as Presence Of God suggests, or maybe your own powers. Just try. You should just try and go on.
The journey of life and death, of search for hope, answers and salvation comes to its resolution in the last song, Tonight. A cliff-hanger ending for the album, letting you, the listener, decide main hero’s fate for this one time. Will he risk? Will he survive? Or will he stay down, stay low and be afraid to change a thing, thus choosing the endless path of searching for things, wanting them, but never getting. Should we try and read between the lines, try to find a hidden message? Maybe what Dave was trying to tell us all along was that his suicide attempt, his self-destruction and everything that built up to his clinical death only helped him regain love for life. That if not for the complete darkness of his post-mortem experience, he would never start believing in the light at the end of the road, after all. The light people seek, but not necessarily value while they’re alive. The light that only the dead see when there’s no turning back to it.
I’m not sure if any of this associations make sense for someone other than hardcore Depeche Mode fans. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe you’ll see more of Soulsavers in The Light The Dead See than I did. Maybe you’ll be overwhelmed by completely other emotions. I just hope that at least you’ll enjoy the music as much as I did… Just try.
There are many people who come back
After the doctor has smoothed the sheet
Around their body
And left the room to make his call.
They die but they live.
They are called the dead who lived through their deaths,
And among my people
They are considered wise and honest.
- Frank Stanford, 1991,
(piece from poem The Light the Dead See)