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Album Review: Depeche Mode – Memento Mori

3 min read

Over the past four decades, Depeche Mode has solidified their presence within electronic music and proven to have broader influence across different genres. Formed in 1980, the English band has achieved great critical acclaim. They have sold over 100 million records, received the 1990 ‘Song of the Year’ BRIT award for their hit single Enjoy The Silence, and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2020. Despite lineup changes and personal circumstances that have threatened the integrity of the band, their success has hardly been hindered.

This continues to be the case with the release of their fifteenth album, Memento Mori. This is the first release following the death of Depeche Mode founding member and keyboardist Andy Fletcher. Martin Gore and Dave Gahan have taken the reigns on Memento Mori, the title being a Latin phrase that translates to: “Remember, you must die.” As such, death motifs are ever-present throughout the 12-track record as an assertive reminder of one’s mortality.

The opening track, My Cosmos Is Mine is a haunting introduction to the record. Industrial synth and deep, foreboding percussion create an ominous atmosphere. Through the noise, Gore monotonously warns: “Don’t play with my world/Don’t mess with my mind/Don’t question my space-time/My cosmos is mine.” This escalates into a desperate plea to humanity: “No war, no war, no war/No more, no more, no more, no more/No rain, no clouds, no pain, no shrouds/No final breaths, no senseless deaths.” This break is only brief, as Gore continues to heed his warning with an echoey close to the track.

The album brings in some 1980s nostalgia with the following tracks Wagging Tongue and Ghosts Again. They retain dark synth melodies while taking a more upbeat turn, but they still centre around death allusions as Gore describes the death of angels and the fleeting nature of time. The second half of the album is introduced with an acceptance of death in Soul With Me, after Gore’s introspective narratives on betrayal and dissociation. “I’m ready for final pages/Kiss goodbye to earthly cages,” is Gore’s hazy departure from worldly confines. But he makes it clear that he will not be leaving his soul behind.

Through the final songs, listeners almost catch a glimpse of hope through mechanical synth tones, sharp guitar and heavy static. Gore perseveres through a nihilistic fog as he  questions the virtue of others in People Are Good, and seeks out companionship in Always You and Never Let Me Go. Ultimately, facing the reality of death boils down to confronting his own conscience in the closing track Speak To Me, as listeners are thrust into a powerful, distorted darkness that emulates a sense of decomposition.

There was an air of uncertainty surrounding the future of Depeche Mode among fans. However, Memento Mori seeks to turn this doubt upon its head. It is a reminder of the inevitability of death and loss, yet it immortalises the legacy that Depeche Mode has created throughout their extensive career. Memento Mori is a strong reminder that the impact of Depeche Mode is one that cannot be forgotten.