It may be summer and the sun may be blazing, but deep in the hearts of Soulsavers there remains a chill that refuses to thaw.
The third album from Rich Machin's collective - and the second featuring the haggard presence of the ubiquitous Mark Lanegan (does this bloke ever take time off?) - continues where they left off on 2007's ‘It's Not How Far You Fall, It's The Way You Land’: all ungodly gospel and long nights of the soul. Further collaborators include Jason Pierce, Will Oldham and Red Ghost on a record that is Soulsavers' most panoramic and - surprisingly - uplifting yet.
Machin has made no secret of his cinematic ambitions and ‘Broken’ begins with the first of two magnificent instrumentals. ‘The Seventh Proof’ slowly beckons us in with a sad piano waltz before spiriting us away with foreboding strings and ominously tolling bells. As the pealing dies out we are welcomed by the reverend of this unholy church, Lanegan himself, as warning us of the ringing's significance on the album's pulsing second track, ‘Death Bells’.
Lanegan is again imperious on this album, bringing a broken bitterness to the Will Oldham-penned ‘You Will Miss Me When I Burn’ (Oldham had sang Lanegan's lyrics on earlier single ‘Sunrise’), yet a touching delicacy to a cover of Gene Clark's ‘Some Misunderstanding’, with the fire and brimstone being provided this time by Machin's arrangement.
And yet, despite the former Screaming Trees man's searing performances, it is left to Sydney's Red Ghost to close the album, with her third contribution, ‘By My Side’, weaving the various threads together to complete ‘Broken’'s gloriously tattered tapestry. Cavernous drums and guitars roll beneath her controlled delivery, an understated peak among a range of consistent highs.
After ‘It's Not How Far You Fall…’, it was difficult to see to where Soulsavers could take their brand of bruised blues and electronic gospel. In truth, they haven't wandered too much further down that desert path with ‘Broken’, but have delivered a follow-up that expands on what worked well last time around, richer in colour and bolder in intent. As they say, if it ain't broken...