music album REVIEW:
- Depeche Mode: "Ultra" (1997)
– a rather underrated album out of the Mode's long back catalogue. Most people would name "Violator", or "Songs of Faith and Devotion" as their best ones. They're both outstanding too, no question about it, but in my view not as consistently so as "Ultra". And it is certainly the darkest – even topically it is closer to the sense of "dark" as in "dark tourism" than any other of their works.
Singer Dave Gahan had nearly killed himself through his heroin addiction as work on this album began (he only managed to finally kick the addiction around the time of the recording of this album). On one or two early tracks you can almost hear the closeness to death in his voice. In other tracks it's more the song-writing – Martin Gore's tremendous ability to craft songs specifically for his band's singer has rarely been more in evidence than here.
So gloomy is the overall feel of the album that its (only slightly) lighter moments almost appear a little close to kitschy. They wouldn't in a different context. Stand-out dark tracks include "Barrel of a Gun", "It's no good", "Useless" and "Sister of Night" – all of which could have qualified for my list of darkest tracks ever, but as the album is listed here, I picked some other DM tracks for that list …