Depeche Mode, the long-running U.K. electronic rock/pop band and touchstone for many an aspiring and established outfit, is still alive and kicking. Delta Machine, studio album #13, is slated for release on March 26th. Lead single “Heaven” was offered up in late January and the official video has garnered over 3 and ½ million views on YouTube so far. Talk about a grand reception for an alternative band that formed in 1980 and hasn’t strayed too far in its style and subject matter over the years.
“Heaven” is a slow-burning (Wait, isn’t that supposed to be Hell?) hymn aurally wrapped in the cloak of a dirge. The dark electronic sonics that Depeche Mode is known for is kept to a minimum until the end of the song, when they become more prominent. The instrumentation is stripped down to bare guitar, piano, and drums. The pace is exactingly measured and matches David Gahan’s emotionally vulnerable vocal delivery as he slowly, but fervently, pulls up weighted words from a deep well of experience. Martin Gore, who wrote the lyrics, provides uplift with sporadic harmonizing as David solemnly implores “I will end up dust / I’m in Heaven.”
What comes across as a lament upon first listen is actually an exaltation that builds in intensity when the song is played on repeat. Martin’s spare lyrics are open to interpretation, but seem to focus on the theme of either death or love equated to reaching Heaven. Another, perhaps less remarked upon, view is that the song is about passion and self-gratification (e.g., “I slowly lose myself / Over and over / Take comfort in my skin…”), with la petite mort equated to entering Heaven. ‘Pleasure, little treasure’ indeed! From the perspective of various religions, the roles of sinner and saint are reversed, where fire, the symbol of Hell, is used to express David’s ecstatic desire as he burns “…a fire of love.” and has “…embraced the flame.” while ascending to Heaven.
The video itself, directed by Timothy Saccenti, is mainly a performance piece, with the band playing in The Marigny Opera House, once a Catholic church, in New Orleans. Various astral configurations are projected in the background and are overlaid by images of a mystery woman in a white, and then black, mask, a human skull, and The Tree of Life. The visuals emphasize a thematic mix of religion, life, love, and death, all leading to a “…jump into the void…”
Official Video at YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fy7FzXLin7o
Official Site for Heaven: http://heaven.depechemode.com/
Official Site for Delta Machine: http://countdown.depechemode.com/
Official Site: http://www.depechemode.com/home.html