[Album Review] Depeche Mode “Delta Machine”

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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.

Got any thoughts/questions/concerns for Jonathan Barkan? Shoot him a message on Twitter or on Bloody-Disgusting!

  • horror_geek1331

    I’ve been listening to DM since 1984′s Some Great Reward but I was pretty disappointed with this album. Actually the past two albums now. I realize bands have to grow and change to stay current and gain new fans but I don’t like the direction they have taken. With that said there are a few stand out tracks that sound like MY DM: Secret To the End; Broken and Soft Touch. Also I thought the extra tracks deserved to be on the album more than The Child Inside especially All That’s Mine.

  • ReplicA

    I’m very glad you reviewed this album. Even more so, that you enjoyed it. I’ve been a DM fan since the 80′s, but fell in absolute love with them on Violator. I have loved every release since then. I haven’t had a chance to hear their latest yet, but I’m really looking forward to it. It’s always good to know I’m not the only horror fan, who loves Depeche Mode

  • sweetest-perfection

    Thank you for your review, I enjoyed your take, makes me a bit sorry to correct you on one point namely, “Andy Fletcher’s mesmerizing sounds”. Most likely, you are referring to the work of Alan Wilder, who was an integral member from the “Construction Time Again” to “Songs of Faith and Devotion”. Mode themselves admit that Fletch doesn’t play a single note anymore, in fact he is more or less the business manager.

  • codylcast

    Thanks for review of Delta Machine. It is nice to see music reviews here, especially dark alternative/industrial bands. I am a long time fan, on board with DM since before Music for the Masses. Their new material continues to impress and inspire me – this album is no exception. I would say it is easily one of their best since Ultra, on par with Playing the Angel – maybe even better. I love the rawness of it.. some of their best work.

    BTW – if you get a chance to review the new Skinny Puppy when it comes out in May, that would be much appreciated.

  • Grady

    Ground breaking group, leaders of their scene..

  • Mako

    Have followed DM since 1981′s “Speak & Spell”. Haven’t had a chance to listen to the new album yet – but have felt for a while that not having Alan Wilder in the band was a huge blow to them musically.

    If you go back and look at biographies or documentaries of the band between 1983-1995, it seemed pretty clear he was the man responsible for the overall production work of DM. He took Gore’s basic songs and built on them to make them what they became. For instance – ENJOY THE SILENCE was meant to be a slow guitar moving ballad. Wilder is the one who took it, sped it up and added many of the layers to the song we know to this day.

    I believe he left because he felt he wasn’t being recognized for these things. For me there are some “moments” of DM greatness on “Ultra” and “Playing The Angel”. But much of their work Post-Wilder has been a let down for me. I will go out and still get “Delta Machine” because I still think DM are relevant and offer something more than the average band these days. They are still one of my favorite bands :)

  • DjangoMoore

    Wasn’t too amazed by this album.