How Depeche Mode conquered the world: Here's the Revolution.
After the short Singles Tour in 1998, the band retreated to a three-year vacation. During this period Martin Gore started to listen to more abstract electronic music, this leads to the inspiration to the soundscape of the next record Exciter.
With producer Mark Bell, of techno duo LFO, the band crafted a minimalist, digital sound to the album. On top of the electronic sounds, Depeche Mode also added elements of traditional blues, retro-funk, progressive rock, and orchestral pop to its arrangements, leading to the experimental soundscape of the album.
Released in May 2001, the album received mixed reviews from the specialized press, with reasonably positive reviews from some magazines (NME, Rolling Stone and LA Weekly), while others (including Q magazine, PopMatters, and Pitchfork) derided it as sounding underproduced, dull and lackluster.
The album was preceded by the single “Dream On”, a number 1 hit in Denmark, Germany, Italy, Spain, UK Indie and US Dance Club and Hot Dance Music Charts.
Despite de mixed reviews, the album charted well, debuting at number nine on the UK Albums Chart and number eight on the Billboard 200, selling nothing less than 115,000 copies in its first week in the United States. The album has been certified gold or platinum on most European and American markets, including the USA, UK, Canada and France. The album featured three more singles after “Dream On”: "I Feel Loved", "Freelove" and "Goodnight Lovers".
To promote the album, the band embarked on the five month-long Exciter Tour, which featured 84 performances for over 1.5 million fans in 24 countries. The tour also generated the live DVD entitled One Night in Paris filmed in Paris at the Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy.
Learning from past mistakes, the band started to take long breaks allowing the release of tensions from the recording/touring process. During this interregnum, the members worked in personal projects: Gahan released his first solo album, Paper Monsters, and toured to promote the record, Gore released it’s second solo album Counterfeit² and Fletcher founded his record label, Toast Hawaii, specializing in promoting electronic music.
By 2005 Depeche Mode was ready for their next album, sessions were held in Sound Design (Santa Barbara, California) Stratosphere Sound(New York) and Whitfield Street(London), resulted in Playing the Angel. With a harsher and groovier sound than the mellower Exciter, the album, as described by Rolling Stone’s Gillian Telling, is a return to "the band's classic blend of synth-pop beats, heavy guitar riffs and dark lyrics". Using more analog synths than digital ones features a more organic sound.
Playing the Angel is also the first Depeche Mode album to feature songs not written by Gore, with "Suffer Well", "I Want It All" and "Nothing's Impossible" written by Gahan (lyrics) and Christian Eigner and Andrew Phillpott (music).
The album was released in October 2005 to positive reviews and commercial success. It was supported by four singles "Precious", "A Pain That I'm Used To", "Suffer Well", and "John the Revelator" / "Lilian" and Touring the Angel tour reaching number one in over 10 countries and receiving gold and platinum certifications in 15 countries.
The Touring the Angel tour began in November 2005 and ran for nine months. During the last two legs of the tour, the band headlined several festivals including the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and the O2 Wireless Festival. In total, the band played to more than 2.8 million people across 31 countries, being one of the highest-grossing and critically acclaimed tours of 2005/06. Two shows at Milan's Fila Forum were filmed and edited into a concert film, released on DVD as Touring the Angel: Live in Milan.
During the band's vacation, two compilations were released, a "best-of" compilation in November 2006, entitled The Best Of, Volume 1, which features as a new single an outtake from the Playing the Angel sessions, "Martyr". In December 2006 The Complete Depeche Mode digital box-set was released in Itunes. During this time Dave Gahan released it’ second solo album, Hourglass.
After 2 years the Depeche Mode rejoined in four studios sessions, from May 2008 to December 2008, to record what would become their 12th album, Sounds of the Universe. With Ben Hillier in the production again, the band described the time in the studio as very productive, with a total of 22 songs created with only 13 making the final cut of the album but with most of them released as part of the deluxe editions or box sets. Again, Gaham, along with Christian Eigner and Andrew Phillpott contributed with three songs: "Hole to Feed", "Come Back", and "Miles Away/The Truth Is".
The album received generally positive reviews from music critics. Entertainment Weekly's Leah Greenblatt stated that on Sounds of the Universe, Depeche Mode "still sound genuinely inspired" while Ned Raggett of AllMusic said the album “is a grower, relying on a few listens to fully take effect, but when it does, it shows Depeche Mode are still able to combine pop-hook accessibility and their take on 'roots' music for an electronic age with sonic experimentation and recombination". The album was also nominated for Best Alternative Music Album at the 2010 Grammy Awards but lost out to Phoenix's Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix.
Sounds of the Universe debuted at number two on the UK Albums Chart and number three on the Billboard 200, the album was ultimately ranked number 200 on the Billboard 200 year-end chart for 2009 and, as the albums before, achieving gold/platinum certifications on many markets.
Promoting the album the band released three singles: "Wrong", "Peace", and a double A-side of "Fragile Tension" and "Hole to Feed". A promotional single, "Perfect" was also released in the United States.
Once again the band embarked on a concert tour in support of the album, titled the Tour of the Universe, playing to more than 2.7 million people across 32 countries. They performed a warm-up show in Luxembourg and it officially started on 10 May 2009 in Tel Aviv. During the North American leg of the tour, the band headlined the Lollapalooza festival. The tour also took the band back to South America for the first time since 1994's Exotic Tour. During the final European leg, the band played a show at London's Royal Albert Hall in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust, where former member Alan Wilder joined Martin Gore on stage for a performance of "Somebody". The concerts held at Palau Sant Jordi, Barcelona, Spain were filmed and later released under the title of Tour of the Universe: Barcelona.
Delta Machine, the 13th studio album was their third collaboration with producer Ben Hillier and saw the return of Flood as a mixer engineer. "Heaven", the first single from Delta Machine was released February 1st, 2013 in the US and March 18 in the UK. although the band had severed ties with their long-standing label Mute the physical release of the single bored the Mute Records logo. According to Fletcher, this was due to their "devotion" to the label and with the band's insistence.
Two more singles were released “Soothe my Soul” and Should be Higher”. Gahan, now co-writing with Kurt Uenala composed five songs, three were released in the standard edition and two more in the deluxe edition. There was for the first time a composition written by Gore and Gahan.
With generally positive reviews from music critics, Delta Machine debuted at number two on the UK Albums Charts, number six in the Billboard’s 200 (US), number one on the German Albums Chart and number two in France, receiving gold/platinum certification on most markets.
The Delta Machine Tour, an 11-month world tour, was the 9th highest-grossing tour of 2013, with the November 2013 Berlin concerts filmed by Anton Corbijn and released for the CD/DVD Depeche Mode Live in Berlin.
By January 2016 the band felt they were ready to return to the recording studio, with both Gore and Gahan having already written and demoed new songs. Sessions went from April through August in Sound Design Studios (Santa Barbara, California) and Jungle City (New York City) with producer James Ford.
According to Dave Gahan, in a Vevo interview, much of the inspiration behind Spirit came from their distaste of the political climate in both the United States and the United Kingdom, he stated that "we're really kind of upset about what's going on in the world".
Continuing the tradition started with Playing the Angel, composing duties were divided by Gore and Gahan/Gore; Gahan/Gordeno/Eigner and Gahan/Uenala.
The album, released on 17 March 2017, was preceded by the single “Where’s the Revolution”, released on February 3rd, along with its lyric video and, a week later, a dystopian-themed black-and-white official video. Two extra singles were released, “Going Backwards” and “Cover Me”
Well received by the critics upon release, Spirits debuted at number five on the UK Albums Chart and at number five on the US Billboard 200 achieving gold/platinum on European markets.
With 130 concerts around the world, the 15 month Global Spirit Tour would become the band's largest tour. The final two shows of the Global Spirit Tour were recorded for their concert film and documentary Spirits in the Forest.
Released in theaters in 2019, the film, along with footage from the final two shows of the Global Spirit Tour, chronicles the story of six fans, with the production crew traveling to each of the fans' hometowns to film their stories as they journeyed to see the final concert of the Global Spirit Tour.
Continuing the tradition of recording and releasing performances from at least one show each tour, Spirits in the Forest was released on home video on June 2020, becoming Depeche Mode's eighth live album.
With a career spanning four decades, 14 studio albums, 54 singles and over a 100 million records sale, Depeche Mode became one of the most successful and influential bands in history.
The band contribution was to music is recognized by critics, artists and industry, been, on 15 January 2020, elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They also rank high on several lists specialized magazine lists, including number 2 on Electronic Music Realm's list of “The 100 Greatest Artists of Electronic Music”, number 158 on Acclaimed Music's list of “Top 1000 Artists of All Time” and one of the "50 bands that changed the world" by Q Magazine.
Having influenced artists of a wide range of styles including: a-ha, Arcade Fire, Coldplay, The Crystal Method, The Killers, Linkin Park, Marilyn Manson, Muse, Nine Inch Nails, No Doubt, A Perfect Circle and Rammstein, we can only hope for a new chapter in this incredible history to be written in the years to come.
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