Depeche Mode - Violator (Collectors CD/SACD & DVD)

For the original review and comments about the making of Violator, please look here.

Perhaps something’s gone wrong with the pension scheme. It seems that in 2006, there is going to be an awful lot of product on the shelves by Depeche Mode. A live DVD of the current tour is coming out in the autumn, and a career retrospective singles collection for Christmas. Also, each and every of the first ten studio albums is going to be re-released, remixed in 5.1, in special, collectors edition CD and DVD sets. Leading this charge of consumerables comes the debut album, "Speak and Spell", sixth album "Music for the Masses" and this, felt by many to be their finest album. The mighty "Violator".

First of all, it is clear from these first three releases that this is not a project Mute are entering into half-heartedly, looking for a quick buck. These collectors editions are pretty special - the packaging looks great, and the content is certainly superior to other remastered albums. "Violator", as with the other releases, comes with the original album digitally remastered, but also remixed in 5.1 surround sound and DTS. Also, the accompanying b-sides are also present on the DVD (but not on the CD, this contains just the original album, and no mixes of the singles - just the stand-alone, not on the album b-sides).

To do these reviews, I am going to take a lead from our sister site, DVDtimes, and break it all down into categories, just to make things a little bit easier to digest.

The Album
Violator
is not really that old, and hasn't suffered in the way the earlier Depeche Mode albums have. There is not so much mush, sounding clear and crisp from its release. Therefore, the remastering is not that apparent here. True, it does sound better, on some songs coming across as a little more dynamic, but these differences are slight.

A few tweaks though are evident. The stomp of "Personal Jesus" is slightly more powerful; the bass end louder and more striking. This actually works against "Enjoy the Silence", where at times the bass threatens to take over, covering up the beauty of the song. These are small criticisms though. The considerable skills of production team Flood and Alan Wilder are very much in focus here, on an album that sounds as fresh today as when it first came out.

The 5.1 / DTS mix
If the bass sounded louder on the remastered CD, it is cranked up to the maximum on the DTS mix. You'll want to ensure that your neighbour is out when you play this - it demands and deserves to be played as loud as you can bear. The pounding beat of "Personal Jesus" is relentless, shuddering and shaking, particularly on the DTS mix. Here, the remix is most evident, certain sounds brought to the fore to an awesome effect. In the extended outro, the echoed snare taps come at you from all sides, the guitar at times almost buried amid the percussion.

The highlight of the DTS mix though I felt were the quieter moments. "Waiting for the Night" sounds completely wonderful, circling you, filling the room with gentle music. Martin Gore's vocal behind you, Gahan's to the front, you are surrounded by the song. "Blue Dress" also sounds fantastic, particularly the harmonium interlude that takes you into "Clean". This too is just a treat, particularly the ending. The snap of drums that takes you into the outro is enormously exciting and a real high point of the DTS mix.

The two mixes though do sound very different. The DTS mix is easily the heaviest of the two, whereas the standard 5.1 mix is a much more muted affair, easier on the ear and less stress on those neighbour disputes.

Bonus Tracks
Of these, Dangerous is the best, and possibly the best flipside of their career (although I am pretty excited about listening to "Work Hard" in 5.1, believe me, if they mix it this way). On here it sounds amazing, the jittering intro and Gahan's strong vocal really working well. Also of note is the "Jack Mix" of "Happiest Girl", which also sounds great. Sadly, these are just mixed in stereo, and not in 5.1.

Depeche Mode 89-91 (If you wanna use guitars, use guitars)
When I heard that these releases were going to have short films chronicling the life of the band, I drew up in my head a little mental checklist. It was pretty much as follows:

  • Plenty of archive footage (old Top of the Pops and the like)
  • Full involvement with Alan Wilder
  • Interviews with as many producers as possible, especially Daniel Miller
  • Current day interviews with the band.

  • Well, I am pleased to say that if the film on this album is anything to go by, they have delivered this, and more. At just over 30 minutes, it is packed with interviews, footage, and gives you an extremely interesting insight into the making of the album.

    The main interviews are with the band themselves, including Alan Wilder. I must admit, the sight of Alan Wilder in his comfy jumper and slightly fatter cheeks, sitting in front of a roaring log fire like a kindly uncle filled me with glee - he was a joy to behond, and it is great that he is involved in this project. And entirely fitting, considering the debt they owe him. It is also gratifying to see this acknowledged in the film, with Gahan, Flood, and Daniel Miller paying tribute to his skills.

    Also interviewed are pretty much all key players. Gareth Jones pops up, which is good news, as hopefully he will feature on the films about earlier album. Anton Corbijn talks about the "Enjoy the Silence" video at length, and even Francois Kevorkian appears to talk about the albums mix. What is also great is to see those close to the band interviewed, particularly Daryl Balamonte, who has been on the road with the band almost since the beginning.

    Overall
    I have to give this release a 10. As a package, it is pretty much perfection. There is much to recommend here, even to those who are unsure of Depeche Mode. The extras aside, this is a superb album, full of character and originality that marks a defining moment in the bands powers.

    Any comments from those interested would be appreciated, either here or on the forums.

    Overall

    10

    out of 10

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