A sombre landmark for Basildon's stadium-rocking techno-pop titans, Memento Mori is the first ever Depeche Mode album without Andrew “Fletch” Fletcher, who died suddenly last year. It is also the first to feature a female co-producer, Marta Salogni, whose previous credits include Björk and M.I.A.
Recording began before Fletch's passing, so it would be fanciful to extrapolate too much from that funereal title. Mode albums typically come in 50 shades of deluxe misery, after all. But this is unquestionably an autumnal, brooding, late-career affair with a deliciously rich, echo-drenched, electro-classical production.
While Dave Gahan and Martin Gore tap into their A-Ha side on the chiming synth-pop gem Ghosts Again, soul-weary melancholia is their default setting on dreamy, swooping epics like Speak to Me. The best of Gahan's clutch of co-writing credits is Before We Drown, a slow-building crescendo of aching angst.
Gore also surpasses himself with his mandatory solo crooning cameo, sparkly avant-lounge ballad Soul With Me, sounding like Scott Walker with a dash of Val Doonican. Lavish production disguises thin songwriting on a few tracks, but overall this voluptuous sonic feast feels like a fitting epitaph to departed friends.