Depeche Mode - Delta Machine (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
DEPECHE Mode have claimed that their 13th studio album Delta Machine has a similar vibe to their classics Violator and Songs of Faith and Devotion while also being as modern as possible.
Well, the darkness that permeates their sound remains intact, as do Dave Gahan’s powerhouse vocals. Whether it reaches the heights of their very best work remains debatable… but it’s a bold, confident, playful effort that should delight the faithfully devoted as well as, quite possibly, enlisting more followers.
Album opener Welcome To My World kick-stars proceedings with an almost mission-like statement of re-introduction. It boasts a notable electronic pulse, that’s as dark as it is thrilling, and a striking chorus that invites us into the mad, bad world of this iconic band.
But Angel is perhaps the more immediately striking. Laidback in places, it also springs to life with some gigantic guitar riffs reminiscent of their work on the seminal I Feel You, while declaring a certain satisfaction at being able to bask in the angel’s glow.
Former single Heaven is evidence of the band’s ability to deliver a telling ballad. Moody, as only Depeche Mode know how, and cinematic… it also combines beauty and darkness to quietly thrilling effect. It’s a slow-burning record, fuelled by Gahan’s aching central vocal, a sombre piano backdrop and some subtle back-beats. If you loved tracks like Condemnation, then you’re sure to dig this.
One of the most immediately apparent things about the album, however, is just how much fun the band seem to have had tinkering with their electronic sound to make it more modern, while retaining the striking qualities of old.
Secret To The End is shot through with some stunning arrangements, especially during its super-charged finale, while there’s an electricity to their use in Slow (another favourite), which also employs a gutsy blues riff (and one of the album’s best openings) and a belated gospel backdrop (again reminiscent of former work).
The album isn’t without some average moments, though, which perhaps gets in the way of classic status. Broken is more pop than perhaps we’re accustomed to, right down to its melodic chorus, while The Child Inside is that rare Depeche Mode offering… an underwhelming ballad.
But generally, they maintain the momentum by virtue of the elements that have served them so well over the years, as well as their ability to tweak and freshen things up.
Hence, while The Child Inside might mark a dip in form, Soft Touch/Raw Nerve elevates things almost immediately, while the slick beats and clinical synth sounds of Should Be Higher provide a keen mix of the atmospheric and the radio friendly (complete with dark themes and lyrics like “your lies are more attractive than the truth”).
Alone, similarly, has an electronic arrangement that borders on the orchestral (and therefore cinematic), while some stinging beats add extra bite every now and again. Gahan’s vocals, as ever, send it soaring with a mix of the powerful and the lamentful (“I couldn’t save your soul…. I couldn’t play that role”). It’s a busy track and a fine example of where Christoffer Berg’s production duties really get given a workout.
For the album’s grand finale, meanwhile, Depeche Mode really turn up the intensity and deliver two more album highlights.
Soothe My Soul opens with the teasing line “I’m coming for you when the sun goes down” before building towards a blistering chorus that declares “there’s only one way to soothe my soul”. It’s urgent, fresh, hook-laden and, again, effortlessly slick in its duality of dark themes and radio friendly elements (sing-along choruses married to sharp synth stabs, propulsive beats and edgy guitar riffs). It also has a sexy, provocative edge (“I’m not leaving until I’m satisfied”).
Goodbye, meanwhile, kicks off from a lazy, bluesy, almost Western-style guitar riff that sits perfectly alongside dark lyrics like “it was you that took my soul and through it in the fire”. As the electronics are layered in, Gahan builds the intensity of the song with more fascinating lyricism (“you won’t hear me crying, now misery is strange, I can dream, I can fly, now it seems I get by”), occasionally lending an echoed edge to the vocals.
It’s a fierce, thrilling finale that underlines Depeche Mode’s continued worth as one of the electronic genre’s finest, genre-defining proponents. Addiction, somewhat appropriately for this band, is all but guaranteed.
Download picks: Angel, Heaven, Slow, Should Be Higher, Soothe My Soul, Goodbye