If you follow some of my articles or my twitter (hint hint), you know by now that I’m a huge fan and supporter of UK electronic band Depeche Mode. Since I was a young ‘un adjusting the antenna on my radio to get the local pop/rock radio station (how many of you can say you’ve done that?), their sound and attitude always appealed to me. I don’t know if it was Martin Gore’s fantastic songwriting, Andy Fletcher’s mesmerizing sounds, or Dave Gahan’s incredibly unique and versatile voice (I would probably commit some grave crimes to be able to sing like that man) or if it was simply the group as a whole, but I was always hooked when they came on.
Fast forward some 20 years later and I’m still a fan, as eager to hear new music from them as ever. That’s why I’ve been chomping at the bits for a chance to listen to their latest release Delta Machine. Now, having spun the record several times and thinking about it more than is probably healthy, I’ve come to a rather interesting theory. In my mind, I think that Depeche Mode wanted the listener to go through a religious experience when listening to this album.
If you’re scratching your head and asking yourself, “What the hell is he talking about?”, then I encourage you to head on below to hear me out. And if you have a different theory, I’d love to hear it!
Let me paint the picture of how I came to this realization, shall I? I’m laying back on my couch, wearing my Grado SR60i headphones, and just letting Delta Machine play from beginning to end. I’m not writing, I’m not watching or reading anything, I’m not playing any games. Nope, I’m just listening, absorbing the music and letting it all wash over me.
On the second playthrough, I was thinking on how Gahan sounded almost like a preacher at his pulpit, addressing his flock, in the second track “Angel”. That image was like a light bulb going off above my head. Suddenly, it was much more clear what was going on with this album. Within that song alone, Gahan sings of snakes, the Lord, angels, and more. It begins somewhat sinister but evolves into something more energetic and exciting.
With this realization and this theory in mind, I restarted the album and noticed that “Welcome To My World”, a very cinematic and engaging track, featured some sweeping, escalating synths that called to mind a choir of angels. The lyrics to “Heaven” were suddenly much more religious and pious, with phrases such as “I will scream The Word/Jump into the void/I will guide the world/up to Heaven”.
“Secret To The End”, which showcases Gahan’s stellar vocals, have him calling out “Thank god” while the music of “My Little Universe” reminded me symbolically of the beginning of Genesis. It begins minimalistic and empty, growing more and more lush while adding layers of depth and structure. Even the lyrics have a slight Genesis theme about them.
Each song on this album can have a religious aspect drawn from it if one were to choose to do so. I not being religious at all, it was still fascinating to try and pick out what was and what wasn’t a religious theme.
Now, with all that being said, I should at least tell you what I thought of the album from a musical standpoint, right? Well, to that I say that the album, while engaging and fascinating, simply didn’t speak to me in the same ways that other Depeche Mode albums have. I definitely enjoyed it but were I pressed to choose between this and other of their albums, I know I would always turn to Playing The Angel.
Sonically the album is, as with any Depeche Mode album, a joy to listen to. On top of the fantastic production (the mixing and use of panning alone is applaud-worthy), the various tones, patches, synths, and effects used ensure that something new will pop out each time you listen to it. Get some good headphones and ease back with this one.
The Final Word: While Delta Machine is a great album that continues the legacy of one of the greatest bands of my generation, I simply didn’t find myself as engrossed or intrigued by it as I was hoping. Still Depeche Mode have delivered something that made me think and investigate, which I can truly appreciate.