Depeche Mode – Memento Mori

DM is now Dave & Martin

Depeche Mode - Memento Mori

Album facts

Release Date: March 24th, 2023
Label: Sony Music
Tags: , ,
Discogs: Depeche Mode – Memento Mori
Partially sounds like: Camouflage, Deine Lakaien, De/Vision, Gary Numan, IAMX
Final score: 4.1 stars
Matching album cliches: 0 / 7

It's bloody pain­ful – not only that Depeche Mode have been a duo since last year, as we had to say good­bye to dear Andrew Fletcher forever and far too soon. No, I am also saddened by the fact that the last album 'Spirit' (2017) was released 6 years ago. The inter­vals between album releases are get­ting longer and longer and I'm sure I'm not the only one who won­ders: "How many new songs will we be allowed to hear from our favour­ite band in our remain­ing lifetime?"

The feel­ing that we are run­ning out of time, because with increas­ing age we real­ise more and more that life is ulti­mately finite, makes us feel mel­an­choly and thought­ful at times. Consider That You Must Die (Memento Mori) already hints at where the dark jour­ney will lead us from the title and the highly emo­tion­al Anton Corbijn cov­er art­work. However, I sin­cerely hope that this is not the last jour­ney with Depeche Mode. But before I get too emo­tion­al, let's start with the review of the 15th stu­dio album by the British synth pop gods Depeche Mode.

A celestial start

My Cosmos Is Mine: The open­er imme­di­ately reminded me of 'Welcome To My World' on 'Delta Machine' (2013). The cool indus­tri­al sound, the iner­tia and the sound­scapes and effects that subtly fill the back­ground char­ac­ter­ise this song. This song is best enjoyed in quiet moments with your­self and listened to through good head­phones. Martin's vocal part sounds like a choir of angels, which is able to dis­pel the dark­ness of the song for a short while. The song feels like balm or a cleans­ing for all sen­ti­ment­al souls and is per­fectly arranged, even if the song doesn't work for me as a single release.

Wagging Tongue: The song starts off with a lengthy intro, build­ing up the anti­cip­a­tion before the soft beat kicks in at the 1:07 mark. From there, the song gains momentum and drives for­ward with a gentle energy. Dave Gahan's vocals are par­tic­u­larly note­worthy on this track. His mel­an­chol­ic tone is filled with emo­tion and intro­spec­tion, per­fectly fit­ting the mood of the song. What really stands out in 'Wagging Tongue' is the lyr­ic line "Watch anoth­er angel die". This could be a ref­er­ence to the recent death of Andrew Fletcher and makes this line all the more poignant. For me it's almost clear that this song is a trib­ute to Fletcher and a reflec­tion on his passing.

Depeche Mode (2023, press photo by Anton Corbijn)
Depeche Mode (2023, press photo by Anton Corbijn)

Ghosts Again: The leaps of joy in my heart when I heard the song 'Ghosts Again' for the first and twen­ti­eth time can hardly be expressed in words. I had tears of joy and a slight mel­an­chol­ic emo­tion­al attack at the same time. Pure goose­bumps! Choosing this song as the lead single was the 100% right choice to cap­ture "old Depeche Mode fans" again. Everything about this song is just right, the per­fect tempo, the deep emo­tions, won­der­ful lyr­ics, sounds that imme­di­ately sound famil­i­ar and warmly embrace you, … simply per­fect. The song is a high­light on the album and has instantly taken a very spe­cial place in my heart.

A place to hide the tears that you cried
Everybody says goodbye
Lyrics from 'Ghosts Again' by Depeche Mode

Clouds are gathering

Don’t Say You Love Me: The gui­tar begin­ning like from a spa­ghetti west­ern is not really my cup of tea. It doesn't get any bet­ter with the arrival of Dave's vocals. It's just an almost acous­tic sound­ing piece which in my opin­ion would have been more suit­able on a 'Soulsavers' album. Sure, the song is good and abso­lutely pro­fes­sion­ally pro­duced, but for me one of the weak­est tracks on the album.

My Favourite Stranger: The quite calm num­ber 'My Favourite Stranger', offers a little dynam­ic in this very con­stant song through the punc­tu­ated gui­tar scream. What I don't think is solved so well are the too extreme vocal effects, which creep in almost ghostly, but that's prob­ably exactly the core of the mat­ter. The bridge in the middle of the song can fully con­vince me with all its fant­ast­ic elec­tron­ic noises. The song is sol­id and after sev­er­al listens I can give it a glor­i­ous 4.5 star rat­ing with a clear conscience.

My favour­ite stranger
Stands in my mirror
Puts words in my mouth
All broke and bitter
Lyrics from 'My favour­ite Stranger' by Depeche Mode

Soul With Me: My first thought after the angel­ic 20 second intro: "Sounds like a blues/rock song in a shabby pub". Seriously!? And again, I know I'm going to get a lot of head­wind from this opin­ion. Maybe after 40 years I'll get used to the fact that the Martin Gore solo songs on the Depeche Mode albums are always some­thing "very spe­cial". BTW: I really like 'A Question Of Lust' (Black Celebration, 1986).

Alternation a sky wide

Caroline's Monkey: In a twis­ted way, I see the song as if a song on the 'Spice Crackers' album by 'Camouflage' had fathered a child with a 'Recoil' song. Only that the res­ult sounds a bit more organ­ic. The pre­requis­ite to be a great song is there­fore already under a good star in the found­a­tion. Unfortunately, the song doesn't really get off the start­ing blocks. While listen­ing to it, I notice myself that I'm wait­ing for a killer drop or that the chor­us some­how blows me away. Unfortunately, that doesn't hap­pen. However, I can't point my fin­ger at what I'm miss­ing in the song. While wait­ing for some­thing to hap­pen, the end comes very abruptly without notice. Whoosh, the song was sud­denly over. I say cau­tiously: I have very mixed feel­ings about the song "Caroline's Monkey".

Depeche Mode (2023, press photo by Anton Corbijn)
Depeche Mode (2023, press photo by Anton Corbijn)

Before We Drown: The song 'Before We Down' is more my kind of thing again. Very elec­tron­ic, cool indus­tri­al and a little exper­i­ment­al. Depeche Mode dare to do a lot on this album, espe­cially con­cern­ing the vari­ations of the songs. As a res­ult, of course, this can't be anyone's favour­ite album all the way through. The high­lights are and remain select­ive. The vocals are a con­stant that you can rely on in the song. The sounds used partly sound like from anoth­er world or at least from a SciFi film. The last quarter of the song, with the choir-like vocals of Martin Gore, raises the atmo­sphere again, before the song comes to a sen­ti­ment­al end.

People Are Good: The very tech­nic­al and com­plex song sounds to me like a broth­er of the song 'Hole To Feed' from the 2009 album 'Sounds Of The Universe'. At least that's my first asso­ci­ation. The song also needs a few starts before the com­plex­ity unravels and unfolds, but then it really kicks in. The song is def­in­itely anoth­er high­light on 'Memento Mori' and a recom­men­ded listen.

Breaking of clouds in the end

Always You: If I were to ascribe single qual­it­ies to a second song on 'Memento Mori' besides 'Ghosts Again', then it would cer­tainly be 'Always You'. The song has a nice beat and is catchy and not too labyrinth­ine. It's an hon­est, beau­ti­ful sombre synth pop song. The soft drums in the chor­us make me eas­ily draw par­al­lels to the song 'Fragile Tension'. I feel like there are a mil­lion dif­fer­ent noises and effects in the back­ground, but they are so incred­ibly subtle that they nev­er steal the show from the core of the song. Dave Gahan's vocals are clearly in the fore­ground, fant­ast­ic­ally sung and give the song its soul. I love this song!

Never Let Me Go: This is 'Soft Touch/Raw Nerve v2.0' for me! Fast beat, dirty sounds, a little bit snotty and prob­ably the most elec­tro-rock song on the album 'Memento Mori'. The song is burst­ing with untamed dynam­ics and if you com­pare the sound switches in 'Never Let Me Go' with those of a roller coast­er, I have to vomit right away. And it would be the best vomit of my life! The off beat drums have almost the same atti­tude and pres­sure of the drums from the song 'Angel', whereby I ref­er­ence two songs from 'Delta Machine' with this song. It makes me extremely happy that 'Depeche Mode' are really kick­ing ass elec­tron­ic­ally at the end of the album.

We will be beacons
Shining so bright
Like stars in the darkness
For lov­ers at night
Lyrics from 'Never Let Me Go' by Depeche Mode

Speak To Me: The "the last piece is a bal­lad num­ber" unfor­tu­nately also applies here, but at least not a typ­ic­al piano bal­lad. The finest syn­thet­ic sounds are imple­men­ted and presen­ted here in an atmo­spher­ic way. The song is again well pro­duced, but doesn't appeal to me dir­ectly. But the end of the song does, because the song builds up to epic and then dis­ap­pears into dark etern­ity. The end of the song really sends cold shivers down your spine. If the goal was to acous­tic­ally pro­duce the trans­ition from life to death, then I take my hat off to this bril­liant achievement.

The sun or the rainfall – a verdict

The album is a con­sist­ent fur­ther devel­op­ment of the last releases and that almost uncom­prom­ising. The hope of many old fans after the single release 'Ghosts Again' to get anoth­er 'Violator' album will be bit­terly dis­ap­poin­ted here. The ghosts of 'Delta Machine' and 'Spirit' still live in the songs of 'Memento Mori'. It's new and it's good the way it is. Also I am not 100% sat­is­fied with all the songs, but the album is basic sol­id and 100% Depeche Mode.

But maybe the album will be cel­eb­rated for more sen­ti­ment­al reas­ons. Maybe a lot of older fans have a guilty con­science because they tore the albums of the last years so much and think they have to make amends. Therefore my short con­clu­sion: 'Memento Mori' is a won­der­ful album, which was made for the fans and not for the radio. Also, I am a bit jeal­ous of the cov­er art­work of the vinyl release as it really looks fant­ast­ic. I'm not a vinyl col­lect­or and will have to settle for the deluxe CD. But no mat­ter which ver­sion you buy, it's money well spent!

A very per­son­al note: What kept me busy the whole time while listen­ing to the album and writ­ing this review is a top­ic that has accom­pan­ied me intens­ively my whole life. Every loss hurts, but I am happy that everything is finite, because that is what makes everything in life spe­cial and valu­able. A ques­tion for all the old school Depeche Mode fans: "Do you believe that 'Violator' or 'Black Celebration' would mean so much today if Depeche Mode had copied these albums over and over again for the last 30 years?". I don't think so and I'm so grate­ful that everything has an end and has to have an end. No mat­ter how much it hurts. Get over it!

Track by track rating for: Depeche Mode – Memento Mori

Depeche Mode - Memento Mori
Depeche Mode – Memento Mori
My Cosmos Is Mine
Wagging Tongue
Ghosts Again
Don’t Say You Love Me
My Favourite Stranger
Soul With Me
Caroline's Monkey
Before We Drown
People Are Good
Always You
Never Let Me Go
Speak To Me
Ghosts Again
My Favourite Stranger
People Are Good
Always You
Never Let Me Go

Typical album cliché list for: Depeche Mode – Memento Mori

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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My Cosmos Is Mine
Wagging Tongue
Ghosts Again
Don’t Say You Love Me
My Favourite Stranger
Soul With Me
Caroline's Monkey
Before We Drown
People Are Good
Always You
Never Let Me Go
Speak To Me
Final Score