Depeche Mode – Delta Machine (album) (Columbia / Mute Records)


Electronic/Synthpop/New Wave masters Depeche Mode return with their 13th studio album, ‘Delta Machine’.

‘Delta Machine’ is most certainly a return to form following the somewhat sleepy and underwhelming ‘Sounds of the Universe’ from 2009 with a nod to the magic of their early 90’s albums (1990’s ‘Violator‘ and 1993’s  ‘Songs of Faith and Devotion‘). That’s not to discount the brilliance and edginess of 2005’s ‘Playing The Angel‘ or of course 1997’s ‘Ultra‘ (arguably for many their best album). However stylistically ‘Delta Machine’ shares more in common with their early 90’s albums than those two records.

‘Delta Machine’ is not a throw back album though and in fact sounds like a band recharged. From the opening seconds of first track “Welcome to the World” the familiar sounds of Depeche Mode are immediate. A danceable kick-drum pulse and throbbing bass line lay down the foundation while buzzing electronic flourishes add texture before Dave Gahan’s soulful, rich and distinctive vocals enter. The mid-tempo and moody verses are then met by choppy strings during the anthemic and gorgeous, stadium-ready chorus. An intensified end section perfectly leads  into the album’s second single “Angel”.

In what sounds like the bed of a Quintin Tarantino movie, the Gospel-y and bluesy, dark and brooding, “Angel” encapsulates the album title by merging electronics with (delta) blues. On “Angel”, Dave Gahan channels the eccentricity of Nick Cave but combines it with an unmistakably Gahan line (well, actually, Martin Gore), “Leave me here forever more, I’ve found the beast I’ve been searching for”.

The gospel qualities are taken to another level on first single, “Heaven” (read our review of the single). A gorgeous and moody number, which would have fit right at home on ‘Songs of Faith and Devotion’. This just might be the album’s centerpiece. It’s at this point that the album steers into more classic Depeche Mode territory with a darker, ‘Violator’-like edge with the brilliant electro-charged “Secret to the End” and “My Little Universe”, which too give a nod back to the band’s 80’s classics.

The sexy and sensual “Slow” returns to the moody electro-blues style shown earlier and while decorated with tasty electronics, it’s here guitar takes centre stage for the first time. With the kind of mood and production work found on ‘Playing The Angel’, the stunning “Broken” is a ballad of sorts and one of those immediate DM classics.

Picking up the BPM’s, the electro-assault of “Soft Touch / Raw Nerve” harkens back to very early Depeche Mode. Short but sweet, it’s sure to be a stonker live. The moody “Should Be Higher” is a hooky, mid-tempo but danceable electronic number; a testament to their songwriting prowess Gahan goes for the big notes during the second verse of the latter and somehow this section ends up being the song’s biggest hook.

The only criticisms of ‘Delta Machine’ is that does fall into a sleepy zone in one or two places (namely “The Child Inside”) and sometimes the record feels like a collection of songs as opposed to the consistent body of work that was the ‘Ultra’ and ‘Violator’ albums. The final three tracks however are also three of the strongest. The menacing “Alone” might be the darkest piece the band have recorded in recent memory both lyrically and musically, while “Soothe My Soul” is a dance-driven pop hit. The album closes with “Goodbye”, which like “Angel” eloquently marries delta-blues with DM electronics.

Of their recent albums, ‘Delta Machine’ is as energetic and dynamic as ‘Playing The Angel’ as well as containing more purposeful and sharper songcraft than both ‘Exciter’ and ‘Sounds of the Universe’. While ‘Ultra’ may be the band’s last truly perfect album, ‘Delta Machine’ is a most welcome return; creative and inspired, it’s sure to be high up the list of top albums for 2013.

‘Delta Machine’ will be released on 26 March, 2013. At the time of this post the album is also currently album to stream in its entirety via iTunes.

Watch “Heaven” below:

Update 28 March, 2013 – The video for “Soothe My Soul” has just been released. Watch below: