The 15 best, darkest Depeche Mode songs (Underrated goth favourites)

The 15 best, darkest Depeche Mode songs

The definition of dark Depeche Mode songs

Depeche Mode, apart from their main­stream radio hits, are gen­er­ally not a band known for fluffy and life-affirm­ing music. In this list, I would like to present the songs that most people don't think of dir­ectly and that are really gloomy. Be it lyr­ic­ally, sound­wise or in terms of tonality.

Accordingly, I have selec­ted the songs by the attrib­utes mel­an­choly, bit­ter­sweet­ness and grim and sum­mar­ised them here. A short explan­a­tion why the selec­ted song is one of the "best, darkest Depeche Mode songs" is included. I have added the best dark lyr­ics to each song as well.

The best, darkest Depeche Mode songs in no particular order

Depeche Mode - Some Great Reward1. Blasphemous Rumours

Album: Some Great Reward (1984)

Lyrically, the song 'Blasphemous Rumours' des­troys you on a men­tal level, if you are not exactly an empathy-less steel bolt. Including the pro­voc­at­ive lyr­ic line "… God's got a sick sense of humour", the song will not only make you infin­itely sad, but at the same time angry with a cer­tain helplessness.

Girl of sixteen
Whole life ahead of her
Slashed her wrists
Bored with life

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Depeche Mode - Ultra (1997)2. Barrel Of A Gun

Album: Ultra (1997)

Acoustically, you can already hear the dark­ness of this com­pos­i­tion. With naus­eat­ing voice samples and indus­tri­al sounds like from a hor­ror movie, even a cas­u­al listen­er can tell that this is not a happy pop song. If you know the back­ground story of Dave Gahan's over­dose includ­ing a short clin­ic­al death, it makes the song even more bitter.

What do you expect of me
What is it you want
Whatever you've planned for me
I'm not the one

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Depeche Mode - Exciter3. The Dead Of Night

Album: Exciter (2001)

The Exciter album is often described as float­ing over a spring-like mead­ow of flowers. But the song 'The Dead Of Night' is com­pletely out of the ordin­ary. This raw song sounds dirty and almost per­verse. Disturbing synths, lots of dis­tor­tion effects and Dave belts out the song with his nas­ti­est style of voice. Ingenious!

We're the horn­i­est boys
With the corni­est ploys
Who take the easi­est girls
To our sleaz­i­est worlds

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Depeche Mode - Delta Machine4. Secret To The End

Album: Delta Machine (2013)

Anyone who has ever been at the end of a rela­tion­ship knows all those dark feel­ings sung in the song 'Secret To The End'. From self-doubt, to anger and dis­ap­point­ment that almost makes your throat choke. The song from the 2013 album 'Delta Machine' is really, and espe­cially lyr­ic­ally, a gloomy song that leaves no one cold.

Thank God, I'm not the same as you
You always know exactly what to do
Is who I am, is not for you
We've come to the end

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Depeche Mode - Violator5. Clean

Album: Violator (1990)

The song 'Clean' is cer­tainly them­at­ic­ally wide-ran­ging in its inter­pret­a­tion. However, the under­ly­ing dark­ness of the song can­not be ignored. Even if it can mean some­thing dif­fer­ent for every listen­er, every­one who has left a pain­ful phase in his life behind can identi­fy with this song,

An end to the tears and the in-between years
And the troubles I've seen

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Depeche Mode - Music For The Masses6. Little 15

Album: Music For The Masses (1987)

If there's one song in this list that evokes the deep­est sad­ness, per­haps apart from 'Blasphemous Rumours', it's 'Little 15'. There are almost 1,000 the­or­ies online about the exact mean­ing of the song. However, I haven't found a cred­ible one that I would men­tion here. Nevertheless, lyr­ic­ally the song is prob­ably about a 15 year old girl whose life is going any­thing but well, rather tra­gic­ally I would say. That's at least the most obvi­ous thing in this song and that's all the lay­ers this mas­ter­piece needs.

Do you understand?
Do you know what she means?
As time goes by
And when you've seen what she's seen
You will

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Depeche Mode - Playing The Angel7. A Pain That I'm Used To

Album: Playing The Angel (2005)

'A Pain That I'm Used To' is anoth­er song with an extreme and almost threat­en­ing indus­tri­al son­ic storm. The song was writ­ten by Martin Gore dur­ing his divorce and with this back­ground the song almost explains itself. On the album 'Playing The Angel' there are more tracks that accom­pany or cap­ture the divorce phase.

All this run­ning around, well it's get­ting me down
Just give me a pain that I'm used to

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Depeche Mode - Songs Of Faith And Devotion8. Walking In My Shoes

Album: Songs Of Faith And Devotion (1993)

With the most pro­found mel­an­choly, the mis­steps that have been com­mit­ted out of pas­sion, devo­tion and sexu­al lust are sung down here. The song sounds like a lament, which is under­pinned by the fol­low-up single 'Condemnation'. But 'Walking In My Shoes' has, in my opin­ion, the darkest aura and atmo­sphere on the 1993 album 'Songs Of Faith And Devotion'.

The count­less feasts laid at my feet
Forbidden fruits for me to eat

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Depeche Mode - Delta Machine

9. Alone

Album: Delta Machine (2013)

'Alone' is one of the quieter bal­lads on 'Delta Machine'. However, depend­ing on your mood, this song can really ruin your day and drag you into a deep emo­tion­al crisis. At least that's true for all people who listen to music not only super­fi­cially, but I don't assume that for my pro­found readership.

I would use 'help­less­ness' as a gen­er­al term for this moody song. From anoth­er point of view, the song could refer to a per­son with a men­tal dis­order, but here I am only speculating.

Through your fail­ings and success
Through your losses and gains
I didn't see much hap­pi­ness or pain

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Depeche Mode - Ultra (1997)

10. Useless

Album: Ultra (1997)

The top­ic of "break-up" is argu­ably the cent­ral focus of the very gruff song 'Useless'. With this song and the unusu­al and very hard gui­tars, Depeche Mode gave elec­tro rock a strong boost. Many older Depeche Mode fans don't like this song at all. I con­sider it an extremely dark pearl in the band's repertoire.

Here I stand the accused
With your fist in my face
Feeling tired and bruised
With the bitterest taste

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Depeche Mode - Playing The Angel

11. The Sinner In Me

Album: Playing The Angel (2005)

If there is one song from the dif­fi­cult peri­od of the album 'Playing The Angel' on the sub­ject of "repent­ance", it is surely "The Sinner In Me". Lyrically, the song is already extremely bleak and suf­fer­ing. The bridge (start­ing at 03:13min) in this song feels son­ic­ally like a thou­sand little needles are being sent through your aud­it­ory canal, straight into your brain. The song man­ages to cause such acous­tic pain like no other!

I'll nev­er be a saint
That's not a pic­ture that your memory paints

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Depeche Mode - Songs Of Faith And Devotion

12. In Your Room

Album: Songs Of Faith And Devotion (1993)

The song 'In Your Room' is basic­ally sexu­al desire described in three acts. The 3 acts are aud­ibly built up exactly like that and slowly lead to the sexu­al cli­max. The music video for 'In Your Room' is one of Anton Corbijn's best. In gen­er­al, I think that the 'Songs Of Faith And Devotion' era was the visu­al peak of the band in col­lab­or­a­tion with Anton Corbijn.

Back to the song. The song clearly belongs to the BDSM uni­verse. It's about secret desires and abso­lute devo­tion to sat­is­fy sexu­al pleas­ures. All in all, very emo­tion­al and sub­lim­in­ally per­formed. A mas­ter­piece of darkness!

Your favour­ite passion
Your favour­ite game
Your favour­ite mirror
Your favour­ite slave

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Depeche Mode - Sounds Of The Universe13. Wrong

Album: Sounds Of The Universe (2009)

In 2009, Depeche Mode launched the era of the 'Sounds Of The Universe' with this brute and uncom­prom­ising track called 'Wrong'. For me it had some­thing of a dejavu in 1997 with 'Barrel Of A Gun' as the first single on 'Ultra'.

The accom­pa­ny­ing music video for 'Wrong' is just as dis­turb­ing, unusu­al and raw as the song itself. If there were fans who thought Depeche Mode were a pop band until then, then this thought should have died with the song. The song is gritty, pitch black and really filthy. I love it!

There's some­thing wrong with me chemically
Something wrong with me inherently
The wrong mix in the wrong genes

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Depeche Mode - Spirit14. Going Backwards

Album: Spirit (2017)

The album 'Spirit' is prob­ably the most polit­ic­ally crit­ic­al 'Depeche Mode' album since the early 80s. The title track 'Going Backwards' clearly sets the tone for the 2017 mile­stone. Serious top­ics about polit­ics and soci­ety are taken up here and 'Depeche Mode' are not exactly squeam­ish when it comes to the ton­al­ity. Lyrically, they are still in the green zone, but the bru­tal and harsh under­tone makes the music.

For me, the album is mer­ci­lessly bit­ter and ser­i­ous. You don't neces­sar­ily find the big dance­able hits on the album, which most fans have missed and cri­ti­cised. However, I think it is an album whose top­ic and concept is more import­ant than pro­du­cing catchy radio hits.

We're going backwards
Armed with new technology
Going backwards
To a cave­men mentality […]
We feel noth­ing inside

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Depeche Mode - A Broken Frame

15. Leave In Silence

Album: A Broken Frame (1982)

The song 'Leave In Silence' is now acous­tic­ally one of the more pleas­ant, almost radio-ready songs in the list. Nevertheless, the song is lyr­ic­ally close to the song 'Secret To The End'. Because it is also about the bit­ter top­ic of break­ing up.

The song was writ­ten in 1982 and there­fore has a cer­tain naiv­ety, but lyr­ic­ally Martin Gore was already very advanced and mature for his age. This song has been with me for almost my entire music­al life and per­haps there is a bit of nos­tal­gia in the assess­ment of the dark sound. However, the mel­an­chol­ic mood can­not be denied.

Reached our nat­ur­al conclusion
Outlived the illusion
I hate being in these situations
That call for dip­lo­mat­ic relations


I'm head­ing for the door
I can't stand this emo­tion­al violence

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Listen to 'The 15 best, darkest Depeche Mode songs' on Spotify

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What's your opinion about these dark Depeche Mode songs?

Did I miss an import­ant dark song? Do you agree with this list or do you think this list is non­sense? Please use the com­ment sec­tion below.

More Depeche Mode

Do you love 'Depeche Mode' like we do? Then you'll be inter­ested in our Depeche Mode album rank­ing in the art­icle 'What is the best Depeche Mode album of all-time?'.

Further you might like to read our art­icle about 'The best Depeche Mode trib­ute com­pil­a­tions'. To hon­our the band, we also have released two trib­ute com­pil­a­tions in 2017. Check out these unique and awe­some cov­er ver­sions from recent Depeche Mode Hits:

Ultra > Angel (A Tribute To Depeche Mode)
Ultra > Angel (A Tribute To Depeche Mode)
Universe > Spirit (A Tribute To Depeche Mode)
Universe > Spirit (A Tribute To Depeche Mode)

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  1. Really can't believe you didn't include one song from their darkest album ever. The entire Black Celebration album should be on here. Your reas­on­ing for not includ­ing it is very weak.

    1. Perhaps the art­icle "The 3 darkest Depeche Mode albums of all time" will fol­low at some point. Black Celebration will cer­tainly be high up there.

  2. Dave Gahan has said that Little 15 is about a boy talk­ing to his moth­er. Martin Gore has said it's about a bored house wife try­ing to find a new lease of life through a young boy and is about a class­mate who had an affair with a middle aged woman.

    1. 'The Darkest Star' is an awe­some emo­tion­al bal­lad, but didn't work for me in this list. I guess this will be a song for anoth­er list in the future. ;-)

    2. The Sun and the Rainfall is beau­ti­ful and dark.

  3. Good list. Really sur­prised that “Fly on the Windscreen” didn’t make the list, though. So many of the songs on Black Celebration could (and maybe should) have been on this list. The whole album, really…and not one made it. Interesting choice to exclude it.

    1. When I made the list, of course I had a few Black Celebration songs in mind. The title song itself is basic­ally a goth­ic like love song. If I were to make a list on the sub­ject, that would cer­tainly be on board.

      'Fly On The Windscreen' is def­in­itely "bru­tal" enough son­ic­ally for the list, but is it really dark? Lyrically, the meta­phors here are about express­ing finitude and a sexu­al com­ing together. 

      'New Dress' was also one of the first can­did­ates. On the one hand, the lyr­ic­al cri­ti­cism of the press, who only pro­duce head­lines to make money, but also cri­ti­cism of soci­ety. However, I did not choose this song for reas­ons of piety. Princess Diana had a great social com­mit­ment and Martin Gore also real­ised this later and regrets this song today. 

      'Shake The Disease' also has a dark aura, but lyr­ic­ally it is more a declar­a­tion of love with the hint not to lose one's own per­son­al­ity in a relationship.

      So I def­in­itely had some­thing in mind with this list. But thank you for bring­ing it up again. Perhaps I should have included this in the article.

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