‘Delta Machine’ Album Review: Depeche Mode add new elements to their patented sound, with mostly winning results.
Many Depeche Mode fans (myself included) have been pretty meh with their recent single Heaven. Too slack and straightforward, it doesn’t scratch the right itch. Therefore, I was worried their new album Delta Machine would be a dud.
Good thing then, that the majority of Delta has the dark grandeur that fans crave. And while it doesn’t reach the heights of Violator (as primary songwriter Martin Gore claimed), it’s occasionally brilliant, featuring some of their darkest and most experimental work since Black Celebration.
Opening track Welcome To My World starts with various bleeps and gurgles, continuing their long tradition of noisy album openers.
It smooths out when vocalist Dave Gahan emits his soulful croon, offering salvation/damnation simultaneously: I’ll penetrate your soul/I’ll bleed into your dreams/You’ll want to lose control…I’ll open endless skies and ride your broken wings/Welcome to my world.
Angel has a quantized sludgy slap, with Gahan channeling the sleazy preacher-man vibe of Nick Cave (click here for my review of the new Cave album): The angel of love was upon me/Oh Lord I felt so weak/I felt my tongue move in my mouth and I began to speak. It’s all gnarled noises and insistent beats, weaving wonderful dark textures.
Gore does his traditional torch song with A Child Inside. However, it’s a tad toothless compared to past efforts. Luckily he adds his tenor vibrato throughout the album, creating those dual part harmonies with Gahan’s dusky baritone that remains crucial to their appeal.
The most left of center track is My Little Universe. The off-kilter rhythm and clinical self-examination brings to mind Kid-A era Radiohead: Those who know me say I’m growing every day…I take small steps/I’m making progress in a non-specific way. It’s one of their most unique compositions to date.
Slow takes a subdued page from the criminally underrated Ultra album, with Gore’s bluesy guitar work working a hypnotic spell.
Soft Touch/Raw Nerve adds a muscular exoskeleton to their early 80’s synth-pop sound (perhaps stirred up by Gore’s recent VCMG side-project with founding member Vince Clarke?) The up-front kraut-rock groove highlighted by a high-pitched squiggle is as dance floor ready as their biggest hits.
Broken is another retro track, equal parts A Question Of Time and Behind The Wheel. A cinematic minor key verse opens into a triumphant chorus : When you’re falling I will catch you, you don’t have to fall that hard. You can make it, I will be there, you were broken from the start.
*Speaking of cinematic electronic music, check out my Kavinski review.
Alone references their gothier aspects with all sorts of swirling, dark portent, escalating synth wails and percolating percussion.
Should Be Higher has a breezy stomp, with Gahan pushing his voice to the breaking point in the chorus. Whether that was a wise move is another story. Best to have Gore nail the high notes. Regardless, it’s catchy as hell. It’s one of three songs penned by Gahan, showing his continued growth as a songwriter.
Soothe My Soul’s glam rock beat references Personal Jesus with an elastic, grainy guitar riff. This bluesy vibe extends to final track Goodbye, albeit more subdued.
The album was produced by Ben Hiller and mixed by Flood. This in large part explains its sonic identity. Flood took the reigns at their 90’s commercial peak, while Hiller has captained the ship for their past three albums. That it looks forward and backwards in equal measure, makes perfect sense.
While it may not scale the heights of their most iconic efforts, Delta Machine shows its creators are still willing to take chances, offering exciting new angles to their dark-electronic formula.
You can stream ‘Delta Machine‘ in it’s entirety on iTunes until it’s release on March 26th. You can also pre-order it from iTunes or Amazon via the links below.
[amazon_image id=”B00B69UQEO” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Delta Machine (Deluxe Edition)[/amazon_image]
Get a great selection of Depeche Mode t-shirts, apparel and merchandise from Rock.com, The Official Site of Rock Music.