Sounds Of The Universe – Home Review

With the album finally hitting store shelves in those European markets blessed with Friday release dates, it’s time for HOME to take stock of this new album, and in particular the amazing box set that comes with it. Oh, and there’s plenty of eye candy in the form of exclusive photos of the finished product!!


Let me just come right out and say it from the start. I love the new record. No point denying it. “Sounds Of The Universe” is as solid as anything they’ve done in the past. Album opener “In Chains” is a very retro Mode track, immediately reminding me of tracks like “In Your Room”, “Higher Love” and “Clean”; it builds and builds, you can just feel all the restrained energy waiting to pour out. No wonder the band had this one pegged as a potential show opener… it would make a FANTASTIC start to the shows. Some of that pent-up energy is unleashed on “Hole To Feed” and “Wrong”; the albums two most ‘in-yer-face’ tracks. They certainly do get off to a great start on this album.

The easily forgettable, and slightly unforgivable “Fragile Tension” is the albums first sign of weakness. The vocal seems oddly detached from the music and the track just doesn’t really go anywhere. This is a “skip’er”.

Thankfully we find us firmly back on track with “Little Soul”, a space age lounge track with a wonderfully cheeky lyric. A slightly eerie atmosphere that gives way to “In Sympathy”; another track that is dripping with atmosphere, albeit of a different sort. This track has a late summer, late night, sleazy party feel to it. Lovely. “Peace”, the albums absolute peak for me, pretty much epitomizes everything I love about Depeche Mode. A charming, quirky track that just leaves a nice big grin on my face.

“Come Back” turns that nice big grin into what I can only assume is a look of slight bewilderment. This song could and should have been absolutely amazing. But sadly, the quirky electro charm of the demo is all but gone on the finished product, and substituted with a sort of quasi-shoegazer onslaught of whirling guitars that just leaves me kind of dizzy. (Thankfully, the excellent demo is included on one of the bonus discs in the box set! More on that later on…).

After a short instrumental detour, the album picks up it’s pace with “Perfect” – probably the most radio friendly track on the album and a strong single contender – and “Miles Away” – a track with a great drive to it; perfect for the open road!

“Jezebel”, the albums only song with Martin on lead vocal has loads to offer. Not least of which is one of best vocals Martin has ever done. Simply outstanding. Love the atmosphere. “Corrupt” ties up the album up in a nice, if slightly dirty, way.

All in all a great album. It’s not without its flaws, but no album ever is. The album, at thirteen (and a bit) tracks, is too long – no album needs to be that long. When considering the album’s more poppy trio of songs, “Fragile Tension”, “Perfect” and “In Sympathy”, I can’t help but wonder if all three of those really needed to be on here? Two of the three would have sufficed, and for me, “Fragile Tension”, as one of the albums very few weak offerings, shouldn’t have made the cut.


In addition to the 13 tracks that found their way to the album, the band offers up an additional five brand-spanking-new tracks on the 4 disc box set edition. “Light”, the first of the five additional tracks found on the disc 2, sounds like something out of an early Zelda game or something. Lovely bubbly electro. Alas, the track suffers from the same detached vocals that makes “Fragile Tension” a hard listen.

“The Sun And The Moon And The Stars” is a gorgeous, stripped back track with another GREAT vocal from Martin; “Ghost” a great, haunting (hehe) track. Easily some of my fave tracks from this entire project, and I am slightly baffled by the fact that these two didn’t make the album.

After “Esque” (another instrumental interlude) comes “Oh Well”, the first ever Gahan/Gore co-writing effort. A pretty full-on club track, this is another fave of mine. That being said, I can totally see why it wasn’t one of the 13 chosen ones. It would have stuck out like a sore, but well-crafted party thumb.


Disc two on the box continues with a collection of 6 remixes. I won’t spend too much time on the bulk of these because they simply aren’t worth spending a lot of time listening to, let alone writing or reading about. But they aren’t all bad! SixToes’s remix of “Jezebel” puts a very interesting spin on the track, and it just works. It’s in the same league as Goldfrapp’s mix of “Halo” (easily one of the best Mode remixes ever). The only other noteworthy remix here is Electronic Periodic’s superb take on “Perfect”. The dark and brooding backing gives Dave’s great vocal loads of room to shine. Love it!


Disc three is what truly makes this release a historic Depeche Mode release. Fourteen Thirteen demos dating back to 1987’s “Music For The Masses” right up to “Sounds Of The Universe”.

It’s very hard to do these historic recordings justice in a review such as this. Suffice to say, it’s an absolute privilege and pleasure to hear them. The wonderfully charming demo of “Judas” made me fall in love with this track all over again. “Nothing’s Impossible” just blew my mind in a way the “finished” version never really did and “Come Back” is everything this track should have been on the album (do I see a pattern emerging here?). More recent demos, like “Peace” and “Corrupt” gives you an interesting perspective on the final versions, while standing up nicely on their own.

This is the stuff of wet fanboy dreams!



The “Sounds Of The Universe” box is itself a work of art. Measuring roughly 30×30 cm, and weighing about a metric ton (give or take), this release puts to shame recent stabs at “deluxe editions” by the likes of U2. Containing two gorgeous hard back books, a plethora of art cards, pins, posters and other tidbits, three CDs and a DVD full of audio and video goodieness, this is not just the ultimate Depeche Mode release; it will undoubtedly also be in the running for one of the nicest releases this year!







  • Geology 101


    I totally respect the guys who put this site together and keep us updated, however I have several major differences of opinion with the reviewer of SOTU: 1) Fragile tension is an excellent song, one of the best on the album. 2) Although Peace seems to have been welcomed by many fans, it is certainly the albums oddity. When I first heard it I shuddered - this track could have appeared on a Broken Frame, or worse an Erasure album and no-one would have batted an eyelid. I do not dispute the song is catchy - I particularly like the chunky base riff, however - this should have remained a Martin song (as per demo). 3) I am absolutely blown away by the album version of Come Back - it is awesome and reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine. I initially had the lighweight demo version, which was good, but the album version kicks ass.

  • zepelin


    The greatest goodies of this box, for me, is the DVD, with one hour and a half beside the DM guys in their studio, sharing their work and they day-to-day life, that's amazing! Along with the fantastic new editions of their albums, with a big DVD describing each of these DM eras, this year is amazing for DM fans, we are very spoiled!! :P

  • Oort


    Having been a Mode fan since the very start, I think their production style is a factor that has changed a great deal since Wilders departure. The 'sound' is always going to evolve over time, but what we don’t see anymore is the big powerful endings that we had up to and including SOFAD. We can compare Peace to Never let me down again, and much as though I like Peace, this track have nothing anything like the power that NLMDA has. I do like the new tracks, but at times I feel they could develop a little more weight instead of just fizzling out.

  • andyg


    DMates SOTU is very little to what I (we?) were expecting.The best of them is within Box set (why?: money,stupidity,misjudgement, etc.)Picking the brilliant Ghost, Oh well, and very good Light no need to say are outstanding and memorable DMoments. Other than that Wrong is very good and In Sympathy, Jezebel, Miles Away simply good, Overall the concept lacks orientation, inspiration. But we still love them and believe in them, fortunately is not as bad as Exciter. Flashback to the past great projects is vanity and there is no real point in comparing, Violator is the highlight and will never ever be another one, past is past let's face what they can make today