Depeche Mode : Memento Mori

Depeche Mode, after 40 years as a band, have earned the title of Elder Statesmen of Synth Pop. The UK alternative rock band has built a musical dynasty, starting in 1981 with their debut album Speak & Spell. With each successive album the band honed their sound and their style to a fine doomed romantic hue.

Probably starting with 1997s Ultra the albums Depeche Mode were releasing were varying degrees of good and bland, with the occasional surprise like 2009s Sounds Of The Universe that would drop and remind you why Dave Gahan and Martin Gore are electronic music icons.

On Memento Mori, Depeche Mode’s fifteenth studio album and first since the death of original member/keyboardist Andy Fletcher in 2022, the songs hang heavy in that loss. With the main songwriting team of vocalist Dave Gahan and guitarist/keyboardist Martin Gore writing from a very emotional place, Memento Mori has a sense of urgency. The songs hit harder and the writing is sharper with Gore making some of Depeche Mode’s most beautiful compositions in over two decades.

From opener “My Cosmos Is Mine” you get the feeling the last three years laid particularly heavy on the band. The industrial noise sounds more Nine Inch Nails than Depeche Mode. Dave Gahan’s still powerful vocals are delegated to a growly lower register before the song picks up in the chorus. “Wagging Tongue” is all wavering synths as Gahan’s vocals slither in.

Martin Gore discovered a newfound love for analog electronics back on 2009s Sounds Of The Universe, and that tactile click and clack of analog synthesizers and drum machines gives the sound a bright, buzzing presensce. Gahan might get the spotlight being the upfront and center face of the band, but its Gore’s studio wizardry and songwriting that has kept Depeche Mode relevant for decades.

Not everything is rainy day music on Memento Mori. “Ghosts Again” is a driving synth pop track, while “My Favourite Stranger” touches on Black Celebration-era Depeche Mode; dark, moody, and with a jagged touch of post-punk attitude. “People Are Good” even goes into Kraftwerk territory with its main melody bringing “Computer World” vibes. “Soul With Me” has Gore on vocals and touches on Bowie in the chorus, while album closer “Speak To Me” hangs heavy in the air long after it ends. One of their most striking ballads in years.

Memento Mori is Depeche Mode’s most striking album since the mid-90s; the heavy themes, the production, and most importantly the songs have an air of urgency that draw you in.

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