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Violator [Digital Version]
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Certified triple platinum by the RIAA (5/96).
Violator is Depeche Mode's most mainstream, chart-climbing album. Although it contains only nine tracks, half of them are tailor-made for the dance floor. This album was conceived when dance-club DJs were gaining recognition alongside original composers. Heavily influenced by techno-pop, the singles "Policy of Truth," "Enjoy the Silence," and "World in My Eyes" prove that DM did their homework. A particular highlight on this fantastic album is the bluesy guitar line Martin Gore lays down on top of the synth-dominated grooves on "Personal Jesus." --Beth Bessmer
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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 anemic, 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 high-points 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.
This whole album is just downright dark, bleak, and chilling in mood and nature and it shows that life is not always about being happy and sunny all the time. Every song here is just absolutely amazing and truly essential listening, all driven with amazing lyrics, brilliant songwriting, catchy, addictive, danceable beats and rhythms, dark melodies, creative sampling, and great usage of synthesizers, and piano lines, all topped off by lead singer David Gahan's amazingly deep, and imposing voice which bring every single lyric to vibrant life, though chief songwriter Martin Gore does handle lead vocals on "Sweetest Perfection" and "Blue Dress".
Kicking off "Violator" is the classic dark, and funky opener "World in My Eyes" which of course is driven by it's dark, funky, beautiful, and gloomy melody, and catchy danceable rhythm backed up nicely by the song's lyrics, and whenever you hear David Gahan sing the opening lyrics "Let me take you on a trip, around the world and back, and you won't have to move, you just sit still", you know that you are in for one serious trip here. This song is without question one of the best songs on this album, and also one of my favorite Depeche Mode songs as well. I just love it. The album's next track "Sweetest Perfection" is another amazing song and another favorite of mine that features some somewhat light marching military drums, as well as intense keyboards and electronic guitar wailings throughout with Martin Gore's vocals leading the way, and I also mentioned that Gore handles lead vocals on this song earlier. Next up, we have the unforgettably catchy, and floor stomping single "Personal Jesus" which is very well known for it's addictively heavy, floor stomping industrial dance beats, and use of catchy, twangy blues guitars, and anthemic lyrics like "Reach out and touch faith". Definitely another essential classic track for sure. Then we have "Halo" which is yet another awesomely bleak, dark, and addictive number that is wrought with great lyrics, and a wonderful chorus, as well as some symphonic/orchestral touches being added as well. Following that is "Waiting For the Night" which is a nice, quiet, dark, yet very soothing number that leaves the listener relaxed and entranced throughout with it's quiet and soothing melodic touches.
Moving onwards, we have another one of the albums' classic smash singles in "Enjoy the Silence" that brings the listener right back to the dance floor, and is also my favorite song on the whole album hands down, and DM's greatest song ever in my opinion as well. The song itself is brilliantly and flawlessly driven by a simple yet very hypnotizing guitar riff and synthesizers and Gahan's amazing vocal deliveries that carry the song straight into an amazing buildup of pure danceable bliss. The atmosphere throughout this song is just simply unforgettable, and the chrous is just catchy and pure bliss. This song would also be covered by Lacuna Coil on their 2006 release "Karmacode", and as much as I enjoy their take on this classic song, but nothing beats the original as far as I'm concerned. We're also treated with a bizarre instrumental interlude track titled "Crucified" which features some menacing acoustic guitars as well as some angry voice effects.
Afterwards, we've got "Policy of Truth" which is also yet another classic tune that begins with a nice, interesting guitar and ambient intro which moves right into a very groovy guitar and synth driven number that is just downright addictive and danceable throughout. Gahan's vocals are amazing as usual, the chorus is great, and of course let's not forget about those intense wailing electric guitars near the ending, and that entrancing guitar play that fades the song out which is really cool as well. Moving on, there's "Blue Dress" which is a somewhat eerie yet melodic dance number that features lead vocals of course from Gore, as well as an addictive rhythm, eerie synth and guitar melodies, and a dark, winter-like atmosphere throughout, and there's also another interlude that follows this song before heading into the album's final track "Clean" which is a dark and intoxicating closer that is anchored by a dark, thundering rhythm, and a dark, chilling, grey sky atmosphere backed up by Gahan's wonderful vocals throughout that just simply sucks you right in before officially wrapping things up with this album here. According to another reviewer on here, "Clean" is actually an antithesis to the downward spiral with heroin that David himself would go into before recovering from his addiction.
Well folks there you have it. All in all, "Violator" is an absolutely brilliant and intelligent masterpice from these Basildon alternative synth/pop masters, and is simply without question Depeche Mode's tour de force, and yes this is coming from someone here who loves metal music with a huge passion. There's is certainly no question that Depeche Mode truly are indeed legends in every sense of the word, and as I stated on my review for Peter Gabriel's "So", there is absolutely no reason for even metalheads such as myself to not appreciate these guys. This album here is the definition of what a good pop album should be, and is definitely light years ahead of all that overcommercialized garbage that's out there these days, and like my good friend The Terminator mentioned in his review for this album, it also proves that hard work on the part of the artists themselves does truly pay off, and become successful for all the right reasons. Bottom line, this album is Depeche Mode at their very best, and if you're new to them, then by all means "Violator" would definitely be a great place to start out with along with "Black Celebration" and "Music For the Masses" as well...Later!!!