Delta Machine is one beautifully bleak, absorbing release in line with Depeche Mode’s best work.

Delta Machine, Depeche Mode’s 13th album, marks the end of an era – the completion of Depeche Mode’s trilogy of LPs with producer Ben Hillier. Their working relationship has culminated in a potent finale; Delta Machine is an engrossing release.

Typically, Delta Machine is a long, winding record of gothic electronica, mutating from track to track in captivating fashion. Opener Welcome To My World simmers and swells in theatrical fits, setting the tone for a hardened and faintly industrial hour. The languid blues of Angel comes next, a prickly fuzz underscoring Martin Gore’s nervy vocals. Heaven – the album’s first single – expands on the same ideas, simmering with bittersweet resignation.

Depeche Mode are known and loved for their songs of overwrought introspection and Delta Machine, in many and varied ways, taps into established patterns. Gore continues to command arresting tension and fragility. Occasionally, a clunky lyric sneaks its way into the mix, but for every poetic misfire, there’s a poignant turn of phrase or two in waiting. Similarly, Dave Gahan proves his credentials yet again with the stirring Should Be Higher.

Delta Machine illustrates a band in fine form, with a hint of defiance in their endeavours. Depeche Mode have been playing to the exact same set of strengths since the ’80s and, clearly, there’s no real necessity to change tact.

*** 1/2 out of five stars

BY NICK MASON

Delta Machine is out now on Mute/Columbia.

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