Depeche Mode: Delta Machine – album reviewDepeche Mode – Delta Machine (Columbia)
25 March 2013

Depeche Mode return for their thirteenth studio album to a waiting fan base. Louder Than War sourced for itself a pre-release  copy of Delta Machine – see what we thought below.

In the four years since the release of the very average Sounds Of The Universe, social media has come a long way. The new Depeche Mode album has whipped up a media frenzy with, it seems, everyone now a huge fan with a primetime appearance on Letterman Live in the USA proving the fact.

The release of lead single, Heaven, was a sudden affair. After an album taster released in October 2012, it was believed that Angel was in fact the said single. Confusion ensued and Heaven’s release was postponed by a week until everything was cleared up.

The question everyone wants to know is whether Delta Machine’s actually any good. Tantalisingly described by band and PR alike as a cross between Violator and Songs Of Faith And Devotion (coincidentally, their biggest selling albums), the album is produced by Ben Hillier for the third consecutive time. Unusual in itself for pioneers such as DM to stick with the same producer, but the relationship and final sound is obviously something that the band favour. Whilst the production on SOTU was well polished, the songs weren’t really up to much and it suffered. Breaks with VCMG (Martin Gore re-uniting with techno-genius Vince Clarke on the instrumental Ssss album), and Soulsavers (Dave Gahan effectively becoming a member of the group on the album The Light The Dead See), have, it would seem, recharged their Basildon batteries and they are back with all guns blazing. In fact, Gahan’s performance on the Soulsavers album was seen by many as the best of his career at the time.

The current Mode sound is exciting with the constant resonance of bass notes, baritone vocals and analogue effects. With the volume turned up loud, your speakers (and eardrums) WILL rattle. Opener, Welcome To My World is case in point, the cutting deep thrust resonates immediately to a slow beat with Gahan’s gentle toned voice. It moves along nicely until a string section lifts the track with a rousing chorus. The mix isn’t packed, and, there lies the key to the whole album with every track sufficiently filled with equal amounts of voice and sound to allow for an eerie silence in parts, and, for every track to have the potential to roar completely out of control. Hillier has done well.

The album taster, Angel follows, and will undoubedtly be a forthcoming single. It too stomps along fiercely from the off with screeching synths and obligatory blips. Gahan is on top form here with surely one of the greatest performances of his life. The rough razor like verse vocal complimented by the sweet bridge holding it all together. Bulding and building into a cacophony of sound. It’s a joy to hear, and, is very very addictive.


Like Bowie, Depeche chose a ballad as their comeback single. Heaven broods in its downright patronising braveness and displays that even the 80s stalwarts can produce a ballad of rather magical quality. Again, the mix is so sparsely put together that every click, beat and tap can be heard. Whilst the press was raving about the single, the groups PR smugly admitted it wasn’t the best track on the album.

Perhaps a classic Mode sound with a modern twist with Secret To The End. Bubbling basslines with a rousing rise to a repetitive chorus backed by Gore. This will embed itself in your head. The now familiar of late guitar also enters for a brief riff. Imagine each song on Delta Machine starting like the Wizard Of Oz in a basic black and white, and, slowly exploding into the glorious and bright colours of amazing Technicolor, that’s what you have here.

Packed with 13 songs, Delta Machine continues to prove that the Mode are one of Britains finest ever acts. Never critically acknowledged with any big media award (perhaps not a bad thing), and, never supported by the likes of Radio 1 in their heyday (guilt finally hitting the station with a Depeche Mode Day in 1993 that even the DJs couldn’t understand), they move forward continually.

Soothe My Soul is another example in the art of alternative pop, starting from nothing and ended with a modern day DJ type mix. The Child Inside sees Gore take lead vocal for the only time on the album – as usual a slow-paced affair allowing him to pour out his heart once more – a very underrated balladeer. Soft Touch/Raw Nerve could be an updated outtake from Black Celebration with its constant A Question Of Time like pound. Another possible single and another example in the art of perfect songwriting.

Even the blues gets chucked into the perfect equation with album closer, Goodbye, surely also a live show ending? A Johnny Cash type riff cohesively holding together verses and exploding chorus alike. Once more, the song rises and rises and rises to its final end.

After being in the spotlight for four decades, Depeche Mode have released possibly their finest work to date. Staying ahead of the crowd, continuing to be ground-breaking and not pandering to over-commercialisation is what they have always done and will always do. Delta Machine is a fine, fine album that will no doubt have imitations everywhere. On this, their thirteenth studio album, the Essex lads can be very proud of themselves.


The Depeche Mode website ie here.

All words by Paul Scott-Bates. More of Paul’s writing on Louder Than War can be found here. Paul’s website is Heaven Is A Place On Pendle. Paul has been working hard to save Radio Lancashire’s On The Wire, easily one of the best radio shows on the BBC. Follow him on twitter as @saveonthewire for all On The Wire news or follow his personal twitter, @hiapop.

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Born and bred in Lancashire, currently residing in the Rossendale Valley. Everything deserves one listen, but, not necessarily a second. Only (ex-Community) DJ to ever play Nat ‘King’Cole followed by Nine Inch Nails, and, eat Fish and Chips live on air.


  1. After admittedly only one real full listen, I have to say that (again) the band spends a lot of time on SOUND and less on COMPOSITION. Lots of bleeps, blips, distorted guitars and weird percussiveness, the songs often play second-fiddle to the aural experience here. I LOVE THESE GUYS, but it pains me to say there is just not enough of the Martin Magic to make this truly great. In fact, the four bonus songs on the deluxe edition are almost the best there is here, because the band is simply letting themselves go and be creative with the writing and putting the sound-effects to the back.

  2. I don’t mean to sound cynical, but can we get away from clichés like “Their Masterpiece” when it’s obviously not? And when they already have, what, four masterpieces? I like some of the tracks on the record, sure. But when you engage in hyperbole like calling “Soft Touch / Raw Nerve” perfect songwriting, you undermine your entire stance.

    A good writer knows that what he says about a record tells readers more about him than the record. I’m happy you like the album. Own that. Recognize that. Write subjectively. Wallow in it. I love a good fan-centric review. But don’t make the mistake of mistaking “the world in your eyes” for “the sounds of the universe.”

    • I think the review is great and impartial – certainly wants to make me hear the album (which is what reviews are all about, isn’t it?). Not everyone likes the same music and whether you like it or not, the purpose of the review is to put across a point of view. The point of view is done well and intelligently. I’m not particularly a fan of DM, but, this has clearly impressed the reviewer enough to make it such a popular post.
      To contradict myself, I’d also make sure I spelt words correctly before being spiteful to other – “recognize”

  3. “Welcome to my world” is a masterpiece. This is undoubtedly the best track they gave done since anything on Violator. Sure there are say 3 songs in the middle of the album that struggle but the other 10 are refreshing and invigorating for a band in their 4th decade. Well done lads you done good!!!!!

  4. Clearly not a masterpiece, better than the two previous album for sure. I agree to some extent to dave parker’s comment, sounds are top notch (but this is nothing new for DM) maybe “composition” could have been better but – being a DM fan from the SGR era – I am quite satisfied.
    I also agree to the reviewer’s comment about the mix being brilliantly balanced but Hillier has nothing do with that… Mark “Flood” Ellis mixed the album and not surprisingly he also worked as mixer/producer on Violator and SOFD.

  5. The album is very raw. For me Depeche Mode stands for “dark melodies”.But where are the melodies nowadays? Dave has got a very beautiful voice, Martin too. Lyrics are superb as allways, but music is too experinmental and too minimalistic for my taste. Music has the ability to touch our souls ways that are hard to define. But this requires melody. Delta Machine lacks good melodies.

  6. just listened to, and really enjoyed, the album. one of the best they’ve done on years. ignore the criticism of people Paul and write exactly what you feel. Reading your review made me want to listen to the album after a long period of not being that bothered by their output so job done fella. keep on keeping on

  7. I agree with every word.
    The album sounds really amazing with (good) headphones. There’s some good storytelling there.
    Can’t wait to hear them live.
    This is undoubtedly 21st century Depeche but also 21st century music.

  8. Masterpiece. Depeche Mode went in their own direction with the songs, reflecting a creative state that is hard to achieve. This album will become a classic and people/artists will refer to it in years to come as it is so forward sounding.

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  10. I am a DM super fan. That said this is a good album but I liked Playing the Angle better. I don’t think it comes close to Violator and Faith and devotion, or that fact Ultra. Just a good Album solid album. I can wait for the concert to listen to all those Violator and Devotion songs! they will always dominate their concerts because those albums were there full on Masterpieces.


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