Depeche Mode’s 15th studio album, Memento Mori, was released today. This is the band’s first album released since the death of longtime member Andy Fletcher, who passed away in May 2022. Igor Gavrilov understood what else “Memento Mori” was worth, besides the fact that Depeche Mode continued without a school friend of the two central musicians – Martin Gore and Dave Gan.
The life of Depeche Mode proceeds according to a long-established pattern. One album in four or five years with a powerful promotional campaign, followed by a world tour, which is guaranteed to sell out all over the world. Then – their own affairs, not related to Depeche Mode. And another album.
In 2022, the time has just come to start recording the band’s songs again. Studio shifts were booked, and when Andy Fletcher died, Martin Gore and Dave Gun decided not to change the schedule because they thought that was what Andy would want.
There was a moment when fans started talking about the fact that one of the founders of Depeche Mode, Vince Clarke (later a member of the Erasure duo) should come to the aid of Gore and Gan, or, which would be completely fantastic, Alan Wilder, who recorded all of its root catalog from “Construction Time Again” (1983) to “Songs of Faith and Devotion” (1993). But help came from where they did not expect.
Martin Gore remained the key songwriter in the group, and his main partner in the songwriting process was a much less known to the masses, but extremely respected character in the music world – the 66-year-old leader of the Psychedelic Furs, popular in the 1980s, Richard Butler. He helped Gore write a third of the album.
Together with Richard Butler, the first single “Memento Mori” – “Ghosts Again” was created. He exceeded all expectations. Romantic pop with echoes of the 1980s, dance groove, perfect melody, precise dosage of guitars and poignant lyricism in the frontman’s vocals. It was as if Butler reminded Martin Gore and Dave Gun why they are generally loved. “Ghosts Again”, as well as the soul-tearing blues “Don’t Say You Love Me”, “My Favorite Stranger” with luscious urban guitars and the poignant synth pop number “Caroline’s Monkey” – these compositions, created with Butler’s participation, completely correspond the aspirations of the fans, combining the melody, electronic background and dark energy inherent in the best things of the group. But in “Soul With Me”, sung by Martin Gore, the aforementioned Vince Clarke seems to be invisibly present, and in tracks with a more industrial mood, echoes of those times are heard when Alan Wilder actively introduced sampling into the band’s sound and endlessly experimented with the sound of synthesizers.
“Memento Mori” is a finely tuned combination of song and arrangement archetypes typical of different eras of more than forty years of Depeche Mode’s history. As is always the case with an album by a veteran band, you ask yourself if you can recommend it to those who haven’t heard the band at all. “Memento Mori” is just the case when – yes. It is possible to start with it and move on.
The new Depeche Mode album is not legally available to the Russians, except perhaps to those who took care of the delivery of a physical medium in advance. They are happy to post on their pages on the Internet a photo with an unpacked Memento Mori vinyl, on which, over the grooves that give rise to sound, an image of angel wings is applied – a symbol of the current stage in the band’s career. Others simply report downloading the album from illegal sources.
A few days before the release, the album appeared on a quite respectable resource – VK. At one time, many copies were broken around the fact that VK was reputed to be a hotbed of piracy, because of this, some major labels delayed entering the Russian market for a long time. In the end, in 2016, the content of all the world’s majors was legalized on the social network, favorite songs became available to its users, and new material entered the resource at the same time as the rest of the world. In 2022, the majors left the Russian market, but VK remained – as an indestructible bond and a popular social network. There was a suspicion that, despite the global political situation, the new album of the group, whose Russian fan base is one of the largest and most active, would inevitably appear there. And he appeared. Then, however, he disappeared, but immediately appeared in another public. The air smelled of a race for illegal “drains” of albums, memorable from the dashing 2000s. Despite the name of the new album, Depeche Mode is immortal for the Russian public. And “Memento Mori” she even gets out of the ground.