Every rock band or musician hits their zenith, their creative peak. Its duration depends on numerous factors. One of them, sadly, happens to be drugs. To me, Depeche Mode’s true peak occurred between 1987-1997, wherein they wrote some of their saddest, heaviest and most resonant music. Not coincidentally, that period also happened to be one of the roughest in lead singer David Gahan’s life. A heroin addict, he suffered three brushes with death (not counting his later cancer scare): two overdoses and a suicide attempt. In my mind, 1990’s Violator was written when the high just kicked in, and “all [he’s] ever wanted [was] here, in [his] arms.” 1993’a much-gloomier Songs of Faith and Devotion was a desperate cry for help, all shredded nerves and raw emotion. And then there was 1997’s Ultra, both euphoric and somber, written after Gahan’s last almost-fatal overdose, after which he finally went clean.
“…reunites with his beloved band, tracing its final moments during the 2018 Global Spirit Tour.”
Lo and behold, the quality of Depeche Mode’s output fell quite drastically. The songs became more interchangeable. Draw whatever conclusion you may on the f****d-up symbiosis between the dementia of drug abuse and raw artistic expression, but – like with so many other bands, and artists in general – that seemed to be the case with Depeche Mode. Tumultuous times may lead to celestial revelations. Renowned video-maker and filmmaker Anton Corbjin, in his music doc Spirits in the Forest, demonstrates how those celestial revelations may just be the discovery of a band like Depeche Mode. Most of the film’s six protagonists, all ardent Depeche Mode fans, have gone through unspeakably horrific ordeals. They find redemption in the band’s music, perhaps even a kindred spirit in Gahan. Corbjin avoids delving into Gahan’s dark history (enough docs have done that). Instead, he has created an affecting, at times exhilarating tribute to the band, and to exorcising one’s demons through art… be it by making it or discovering it.