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Music Review: Ghostwheel – Newborn

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It must be nerve-racking to release an album to the public. It’s bad enough when that public has no real expectation of what the songs on the album will sound like. The pressure must increase exponentially when a band releases a cover album, full of tracks with which the potential audience already has an intimate relationship.

With his debut release, Dobo Radichkov takes a flying leap into potentially treacherous territory, reinterpreting songs by a truly iconic musical group. Newborn is a collection of Depeche Mode covers by Radichkov, aka Ghostwheel. Like any Depeche Mode super fan, I had pre-existing notions of what Depeche Mode’s music should sound like, and Radichkov certainly had his work cut out for him. But with Newborn, he successfully channels a dark and naughty vibe that places a modern spin on classic material.

The album is faithful to the “beautiful despair” aesthetic that characterizes the music of Depeche Mode. It took me a while to get used to Radichkov’s voice, which is somewhat nasal compared to Dave Gahan’s. Once I adjusted, though, I was able to appreciate the unique elements Radichkov brings to the music.

One of the album’s most haunting tracks is “Newborn.” It’s slinky and sexy. Radichkov’s soft crooning sounds just a bit depraved, in a way that begs the listener to give in to beckoning sins. Good stuff.

Another standout is the melancholy “Get Right with Me,” a slow and deliberate foray into dark Brit-pop. The sounds of synth are plenty, creating an ambiance that at once harkens back to Depeche Mode’s heyday and offers something fresh and new. This is immediately followed by the pulsating “Interlude,” which sounds like music for some sort of magical quest.

There are fewer layers than in the Depeche Mode originals, leaving the vocals and melodies barer and adding to the sense of naked sensuality. This also assists Ghostwheel in establishing a unique sound, as Depeche Mode is virtually synonymous with deep, reverberating musical strata.

Overall, Newborn is a worthwhile listen for Depeche Mode fans. Just be sure to give yourself time to adjust to the differences, and don’t go into the experience expecting anything specific. You know, standard advice for enjoying a cover album. I would be interested in hearing original music from Ghostwheel, as well.

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