Gabriels deliver the full gospel, soul, RnB package by adding the second half to their sumptuous debut, Angels & Queens.
Neo-soul group Gabriels’ stock has been on the rise for the past 18 months following two rapturously received Glastonbury sets, emerging as one of the must-see live acts and releasing an acclaimed first part to their debut album Angels & Queens in September last year.
Part 1 was regarded as one of the finest albums of 2022 and so naturally anticipation is high for the second instalment. Singer Jacob Lusk also featured as a standout guest during Elton John’s headline Glastonbury set, further boosting his and the group’s profile. The three-piece’s sound is incredibly distinctive and recalls the great soul acts of the past, tinged with a dark and moody edge and prominent strings.
Lead single ‘Offering’ immediately comforts any fears fans might have had as to whether the second part of the album would live up to the hype, built around strings, piano and Lusk’s wondrous vocals – a show-stopping way to start a record, emphasising all that makes Gabriels such a standout act.
As with the first part of the record, the balance between slow, dark ballads and infectious soul grooves stands out, making it an unexpected and layered listen that warrants repeat spins. ‘Professional’ is a simply gorgeous track, built entirely around Lusk’s vocals and a subtle piano before building into an almost trip-hop groove, showcasing the depth of their sound. ‘We Will Remember’ is a perfect continuation of this, again spotlighting Lusk and stripped-back to mostly strings and piano. The effect is haunting and sure to be a highlight of an already remarkable live show.
A reworked version of ‘Love and Hate in a Different Time’, which helped launch Gabriels in 2021 offers a marked difference from its original form. To their credit, they have revisited the track here with this new version justifying its existence and showing the group’s evolution over the past two years. This new version still sounds magnificent and it’s hard not to get your feet tapping along to the groove.
‘Glory’ also has a relentless beat to it, a far cry from some of the record’s more sombre moments and demonstrates the full range of their sound in the process. It makes the most of its near- three-minute length a breathless romp that ranks among Gabriels’ most upbeat numbers.
Pt II containing the full 13 tracks helps to contextualise the overall feel of this debut record and the juxtaposition of their sound, balancing slower moments and floor-fillers to perfection. Some vocalists might struggle to meet the shift in tempo but Jacob Lusk rises to the occasion, as at home in a slow piano and string ballad as he is with an anthemic, chorus-laden pop song.
The back stretch of this record is full of magnificent up-tempo pop songs that work wonderfully alongside the darker, moodier edges that found earlier. Ari Balouzian, Jacob Lusk, Ryan Hope are songwriters of the highest order and have phenomenal understanding of how to construct a modern soul and RnB record.
As a two-part introduction to Gabriels, Angels & Queens is a fascinating, textured listen that fluctuates in tone and pacing but never feels off balance. The lyrics and energy keep things constantly engaging and it’s hard not to fall instantly in love with Lusk’s vocals which are just one part of their armoury.
Having lived-up to the hype of the past two years, the sky is the limit for the group, and it will be intriguing to see what direction they go in next with a heightened profile and following.