Depeche Mode
Violator


5.0
classic

Review

by Stephen Gore USER (43 Reviews)
January 3rd, 2007 | 246 replies


Release Date: 1990 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Depeche Mode at the height of their powers - a dark, brooding masterpiece of swirling electronica and alternative stadium anthems

If an album is produced in 1989 and released in 1990, which decade is it from? If it features 80s style keyboards and 90s style guitars, is it electro or rock? If it’s dark yet uplifting, will it make you smile or cry? I’m glad to say that it is all of these things and more, and it makes me a happy man.

Violator is Depeche Mode’s craft filtered, distilled and purified. The epic ambitions of the previous album (‘Music For The Masses’) are gone. Instead, ominous guitar lines, beautifully moody vocals and crystal clear electronic effects all float gracefully over murky bass lines. Tempos rise, fall to the depths, and rise again, sometimes within the space of a single song. Themes vary from guilt, religion, sexual fetishes, nihilism, misanthropy and drugs. Anonymous interludes bind the songs together with elegance and subtlety. It’s darkly mysterious. Evocative. Muscular. Moody.

‘World In My Eyes’ opens up the void and is an excellent introduction to this finely-tuned blend of dancey pop music and something rather more shaded, reclusive and vicious. Its propulsive, electronic multi-rhythms, and darkly uplifting chorus referring to the bleakness of stark realism makes this a very dramatic song indeed, yet still one that you can dance to. ‘The Sweetest Perfection’ descends further into the mire with its tense, rhythmic verses chugging along with dirty, droning whirrs, while Gore’s high voice sails innocently overhead; some of his best lyrics ever feature here: “When I Need A Drug In Me/And It Brings Out The Thug In Me/Feel Something Tugging Me”.

And then, it's time for the standard, ‘Personal Jesus’, arguably DM’s most famous song. Underpinned by a stomping blues-riff, it remains a timeless classic, probably because it sounds so raw and primal. The original man in black himself, Johnny Cash, could hardly improve it, and Marylin Manson's effort simply beefed up the amps. Hugely anthemic, it uses the metaphor of tele-evangelism to warn of the unbalanced desire to have a ‘Personal Jesus’. This darkly euphoric trip is extended into ‘Halo’, a shadowy, brooding masterpiece of pumping synths and pounding bass effects. If you ever want the definitive Depeche track, this is it - the supreme height of glorious, uplifting, sinister feeling. You’ll feel high and terrified at the same time. ‘Waiting For The Night’ brings you back down, with its beautiful, crystalline keyboards that twinkle like watery stars all over the track. It has an ambient, Tangerine Dream-feel to it, yet the whispered lyrics and soulful moaning at the end give it that same ominous atmosphere. Good music for a midnight walk through the trees.

But the night (and silence) is broken with the next track. Even if for some reason you haven’t heard the title ‘Enjoy The Silence’ before, you will have heard the song. It started off as a pretty ballad (until Alan Wilder had the bright idea of speeding it up into a dance track) and that wonderful, slightly melancholic feeling is carried over into this glorious final mix. Helped along by a slightly New Order-like guitar line and Kraftwerk-esque ‘pewt‘ sounds, it sounds dancey and fluid, and the lead melody is one of the strongest they’ve ever produced. Fading into the aforementioned silence, the song’s message about the unimportance of words next to feelings is placed right next to a song about the importance of lies in protecting a relationship. ‘Policy Of Truth’ is another dance-floor filler, and has a great slide guitar-esque riff over a wistful melody line sang by Gahan and competently harmonised by Gore.

‘Blue Dress’, the album’s 'pervy' song (there's always one on every DM album), is the musical equivalent of a butterfly. It floats euphorically along, like a helium balloon about to escape, and Gore sings sweetly along about how much he likes a girl in a blue dress (with bizarre, warped sound effects and to waltz-time, no less). The album’s closer picks up where ‘The Sweetest Perfection’ left off, a bass-heavy churner called ‘Clean’ (ironic considering what would happen to Gahan next). It throbs along with electronic pulses and ominous, pounding drums, giving a slightly Pink Floyd-ian feel, with Gahan putting in his best vocal performance, sounding suitably morose and doubting. Lyrically, Gore interrupts Gahan’s half-hearted claims of being ,”The Cleanest I’ve Been” by murmuring “...sometimes…” in the bleakest manner possible. It’s a suitably grand, dramatic end to this dimly-lit album.

If there was ever an album that bridged two decades successfully in just nine songs, Violator was it. Still Depeche Mode’s greatest work, it’s not just because of the number of excellent highpoints scattered casually all over; it’s also the absence of any real flaws or filler that makes it such an easy and compulsive listen from start to finish. The hit singles are all great to listen to as stand-alone tracks, but it works very well as a coherent album too. Sure, I could nitpick and say that maybe ‘Blue Dress’ is not as strong as the rest; that ‘Waiting For The Night’ goes on for too long, or the album approach is too electronic, or too dark. But I wouldn’t be being honest at all. Even hardened electro cynics (or even purists) who dislike the approach could find much to admire here. In fact, the one and only thing I could take issue with is a song title. ‘Enjoy The Silence’? No way. Not while there’s a masterpiece like this to fall in love with.



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user ratings (882)
Chart.
4.4
superb
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Kaleid
January 3rd 2007


711 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Okay folks. I promise to branch off and never mention them again! I've exhausted the DM back catalogue now. But I've saved the best til last.
Worked really hard to give this one my all. Hope you enjoy it. *:-)

The Jungler
January 3rd 2007


4827 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

You're quite the DM fan, huh? The other reviews of your I've read have been great and this is no exception. This is the only Depeche Mode CD I've heard and I like it alot. Enjoy the Silence is probably my favorite track.
Congrats on finishing up your Depeche Mode streak, I'll be glad to see you branch out.

ohcleverhansyou
January 3rd 2007


885 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Excellent intro, good review. I decided not to like Depeche Mode, I don't remember why. But despite my best efforts, I like "Enjoy the Silence."

Sepstrup
January 4th 2007


1563 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I really just rated this a 4,5 because we can't have that many 5's. I think it's a perfect album, I can't mention a single flaw. Halo has remained my favorite track from this, but I think the album is consistently awesome. Nothing is noticeably worse than the rest.

Great review, I like your style a lot. I'm looking forward to seeing what you'll review next.

Rating bumped to a five.This Message Edited On 01.04.07

Kaleid
January 4th 2007


711 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks for all the positive feedback got loads of different stuff over xmas really wanna get stuck into some different reviews soon *:-)

Sepstrup
January 4th 2007


1563 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Check out Spleen United. They're a Danish band heavily inspired by Depeche Mode. If nothing else, check them out to comment on my review

StrizzMatik
July 19th 2007


3188 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Near-perfect album, but I like some of the rougher, less mainstream cuts from Black Celebration or Music For The Masses a bit more than the poppy DM. Still a classic record though.

Zebra
Moderator
July 20th 2007


2647 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

There's so many classics on here. It's a shame that this is the only good album that Depeche Mode ever released, all of their other stuff is just meh.

meliffy18
July 23rd 2007


50 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Excellent review. I am a die hard Depeche Mode fan, and while this album isn't my favorite (a little too commercial and radio-friendly for my taste), it is noteworthy. While they've had successful singles before VIOLATOR, this album contained the most well-known DM songs.

This is definitely NOT the "only good" album they ever released; try BLACK CELEBRATION for one, that album was incredibly orginal. There was also the latest one, PLAYING THE ANGEL which was nominated for numerous awards, sold over 3 million copies worldwide, and just plain kicked the crap out of their previous 3 releases. Granted, nothing can touch this album but it's DEFINITELY not their only good one!!This Message Edited On 07.23.07

deroeckj
February 6th 2008


69 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Good review, only recently discovered the whole cd,
and have to admit, it's amazingly good.
I liked "Enjoy the silence" from the day it came out, but for a long time I didn't like all the rest from this band, to 80's to me, the worst musical decade ever !
But I was wrong, Violater rules, and many other DM cd's are also very passable to say the least :-)

Kaleid
February 6th 2008


711 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

^ This is trueThis Message Edited On 02.06.08

Ghearufu
March 20th 2008


87 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Fairly new here so Im still going around commenting on some of my favorite cds in my collection and thus I stop by here. I became a Depeche Mode fan with Playing the Angel then moved backwards and I was greeted by great music while on my way. Id just like to say that this album is one of my favorite DM albums (I have almost all of em now ^_^).

science4
April 17th 2008


18 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

The best of the best of the best. (Album, band, genre).
Almost got all of their records. Fantastic group.

BallsToTheWall
June 27th 2008


44331 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This album is incredible, kickin myself for not checking them out earlier.

Digging: Tiamat - Clouds

fireaboveicebelow
June 27th 2008


6837 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

check out Ultra, it's my favorite by them

kygermo
October 3rd 2008


994 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Nice review. Violator is Scary good!

Chewie
October 6th 2008


4532 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

lol gay ending sentence, still I really wanna get this. Good review

BallsToTheWall
October 6th 2008


44331 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Get it chewie. Waiting For The Night, ftw.

Kaleid
October 6th 2008


711 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

The precise sexuality of my ending sentence is it's own business, so long as it doesn't try to ram it down my throat (so to speak).

Waiting For The Night is amazing, and slightly creepy

Spamwise
November 2nd 2008


87 Comments


I like "Enjoy the Silence" a lot, but I don't like "Personal Jesus" too much. Would I like the rest of the CD?



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