Are you ready to be pleasantly surprised? Depeche Mode’s new album is one of the best things they’ve ever recorded. Delta Machine stands up next to Violator (1990) and Black Celebration (1986), and like those classic releases it’s a big, dark, dramatic record by a band confidently expanding on an established sound.
On Delta Machine, that means a whole hour of warped, distorted and fidgety synthesisers colliding with mutated blues guitar stomps. ‘Alone’ is a chilly, pulsing ballad, ‘Soothe My Soul’ a triple-time slammer, and on closing track ‘Goodbye’, guitars and synths alternate and then bleed into one another, making the last minute of the album an awesomely fuzzy electrical storm.
Despite constant ill-health and a history of heroin addiction, Dave Gahan sings like a superhuman, howling on ‘Angel’ like two Nick Caves. It’s not all good news. Martin Gore still doesn’t have the vocal swagger to carry off some of his more melodramatic lyrics, and Gahan’s song ‘Broken’ is a lazy rewrite of Gore’s excellent 1986 single ‘A Question of Time’.
But Delta Machine is thrilling and scarily immersive, and a welcome reminder that Depeche Mode haven’t lost their ability to shock.