Depeche Mode – Memento Mori (Album Review)

In a modern world where life is moving at an accelerated pace, perhaps some are finally awakened to the realization that all of this is beyond human capability. Smart technologies, meaningless social media worlds, and the constant scrolling through screens for disposable information… what does it all mean? Operating on sensory overload, and actively contributing to our own demise, it is important to remember one thing – Memento mori. 

An age old saying that could be lost on the modern citizen, please take a moment to silence all the distractions and remember, yes, one day we will all die. Morbid as it might seem, but realistic in every sense of the word, in truth there is a positivity to the adage; it is to never take life for granted, stay humble, and always appreciate what you have. Quite philosophic in a period of human history where there appears to be an absence of such, UK Synthpop icons Depeche Mode still believe, and that is why it makes sense that they named their latest album Memento Mori

Formed 43 long years ago, Depeche Mode not only were born in the ‘80s, in many aspects they defined the decade. A band that was perhaps the most popular in the Synthwave/Electronic music movement, they arguably also perfected the sound better than any other. Releasing one classic album of music after another, they would top charts, sell millions, and create some of the most memorable hit singles of the time. 

All of this considered, oddly enough it took until 2020 for Depeche Mode to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. A justified triumph, with positives, also came negatives, and that hit Depeche Mode hard when co-founder Andy Fletcher passed away suddenly in May of 2022. Tragic and sad for many, again appear those words… memento mori. So, where do the band go from here after losing their bandmate and longtime friend? Well, with heavy hearts in hand, they carry on, and that is where their latest album comes in.

Released on March 24, 2023 through Columbia, it marks their third album in the last decade and fifteenth overall. An era in Depeche Mode history which was musically a bit different, the latest effort from the band seems to find them flashing back to the past a bit more. Looking into the past, albums over the past fifteen years – from 2009’s Sounds of the Universe to 2017’s Spirits – were varied. Not taking anything away from these albums, each having something to offer, whatever it might be, Memento Mori feels inherently different. 

Is it the production, is it the warmth synth sounds utilized, or is it the overall artistic approach? The answer could be all of the above, and for some reason it just feels right. Yes, Memento Mori has some somber lyrical content, but for some reason the tones sound richer and brighter than anything they have done in more recent times. In fact, the vibe is comparable to classics such as 1986’s Black Celebration.

Evident from the beginning with the dreamy “My Cosmos Is Mine,” mesmerizing “Wagging Tongue,” and extremely catchy Richard Butler (Psychedelic Furs) co-written single “Ghosts Again,” the album ignites like a house on fire. Then there are other delightful cuts such as “My Favourite Stranger,” “Caroline’s Monkey,” and “Before We Drown.” All dripping with signature Depeche Mode synth stylings, there are also more downbeat points as heard on “Don’t Say You Love Me” as well as ominous feelings of closer “Speak to Me.”

Twelve songs in total, what happens in between the selections discussed is a well-polished mix of other songs that have subtleties, twists and turns, but most importantly, thoughtful words. At this point, Dave Gahan and Martin L. Gore have lived a good amount of life. Seasoned, they are wise enough to know that the time we have is simply that… time. 

As temporary as we might be, fortunately we still have the creative talents of artists like Depeche Mode. Sustaining longevity and writing some of the best songs ever, while we all might be dust in the wind, Depeche Mode’s music will live forever. With these thoughts in mind, and their exciting new collection of songs included, Cryptic Rock gives Depeche Mode’s Memento Mori 4.5 out of 5 stars. 

Depeche Mode – Memento Mori / Columbia Records (2023)

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