Is it coincidence or fate? "Memento Mori" is the title of the new album by the British band Depeche Mode. An emotional roller coaster ride between frustration, melancholy, hope and joy, with songs about farewell, dying and thoughts of the afterlife. When it comes out in late March, it will be less than a year since the sudden death of co-founder Andrew Fletcher, aka Fletch.
A tribute to Fletch? You might think so, but it wasn't planned. "All the songs were already written, we started recording, the title already existed," said singer Dave Gahan of the German Press Agency in Munich.
Depeche Mode are 80s icons
"Fletch died just as we were about to get back together," continues Gahan, who, as the lead singer of the synth-pop band in the 1980s, had become a famous and adored star, along with Fletcher, Martin Gore and Alan Wilder, while Vince Clark already left after the first album. Songs like "Just Can't Get Enough", "Enjoy the Silence" or "People Are People" shaped a whole generation of young people who couldn't get enough of the unmistakable creative electronic sound between rock and pop and the profound lyrics and Depeche Mode one of the best-known and most important bands with more than 100 million records sold.
New album with a heavy heart
So now a new album, the idea of which came about at the beginning of the corona pandemic, but which is still under the impression of the loss of Fletcher, who died unexpectedly last May from a ruptured main artery. "Memento Mori" offers twelve songs, each as worth listening to as the next. Depeche Mode draw from their eventful life, between successes and difficult times, disappointments and fulfilled love, pain and joy, but also sadness.
The opening "My Cosmos is Mine" immediately pulls you into the Depeche Mode feeling with a song about betrayal, longing and loneliness. Some tracks are defiant like "Wagging Tongue" about lies and doubts, while "Ghosts Again" laments wasted feelings, goodbyes and days between heartache and hope, even with dissonant tones. "People Are Good" is about disappointment and self-deception, while "Always You" comfortingly testifies to a deep longing. And "My Favorite Stranger" is Depeche Mode's own reflection.
What comes after the end?
Above all, the question hovers: What happens after death? A mystery that "Soul With Me" sings about with haunting and simple words, but at the same time with a touch of irony. "I'm heading for the open sky," says the song "Soul With Me". "I'm going, where there are no tears". An ascension to heaven, where there are no tears and sorrows, away from the constraints of earth. And: "I'm ready for the final page".
"The album is a constant reminder that life is very short and time flies," says Gahan. He himself knows that at some point he will no longer perform. "I feel the time is coming," he admits. "I love performing, I really do. And I'll find a way to keep doing it. But my body won't allow me to do everything I want to do in the future. I know that." But the time has not yet come. "Hopefully it will be a long time before then," said the 60-year-old.
The fact that Fletcher is no longer on the keyboard on the 15th studio album is not easy for Gahan. He spent 40 years with him and Martin Gore as Depeche Mode. And often they were together in California, at Gore. Just like this time with the recordings for the album. He often thought of Fletcher during this time. Interviews, photo sessions, videos and the current "Memento Mori" tour - all without him. "It's strange," says Gahan. "But that's life. Life is beautiful, but it's also kind of cruel at the same time."
So it's no wonder that despite all the sadness, "Memento Mori" is permeated by a great deal of tenderness and the hope that everything could be fine, even if life is so fleeting. Or, to put it in Gahan's words: "Enjoy what you're doing, get the most out of it. Because nobody knows what tomorrow will bring."