By the time Brit-pop came to its end, and a new wave of teen groups took hold of the world, Depeche Mode was born again, as a phoenix which rises from its own ashes.
1997 was the come-back year for big bands such as INXS and U2, but their efforts were not even a bit close to Depeche Mode's Ultra.
U2 showed they were only made to commercialize their image and play guitars while INXS demonstrated they were only an 80's band.
Depeche Mode gave us another surprise. After the hugely successful Violator, we were given a soul-rock album, something nobody thought they were capable of, and Ultra, the follow-up to Songs of Faith and Devotion, is the perfect mixture of strings and keyboards.
The album is made of a wide variety of musical styles, from the synth-pop of "It's no good" to the US- western of "Freestate", from the rock of "Useless" to the soft ballad in "Insight".
The vocalization reaches a zenith with Martin Gore in "Home", a wonderful ballad with splendid lyrics and a powerful production, and though Dave's vocal are not at its best, he still pleases us with good performances like "Insight" or "Useless".
The lyrics tell us about tears, longing, patience and even hope, in the intelligent way Depeche Mode has accustomed us for a long time.
The production is excellent, and maybe the only weak point of the album is that there are many musicians, showing that the departure of Alan Wilder left an empty space very difficult to cover.
In Ultra, we find one of the best albums ever made. An elegant album that is probably the most accessible in the entire discography of these Basildon musicians, though most of the credits go to an album released the same year, the "OK Computer" of Radiohead. Obviously, the fact of not being a rock band makes Depeche Mode less important than the Oxford kids, but almost ten years after, Depeche Mode continues offering excellent albums and being one of the most successful and popular acts in the history of music, demonstrating their quality and influence go beyond musical genres and musical tastes.
As a personal experience, this is my favourite album from all I own and have heard. It's above The Beatles' white album or the Sundays' Reading Writing and arithmetic. It remembers me a lot my first year in High school and many things that almost make me cry, it occupies an important part in my life and heart, but despite I have all the albums of Depeche Mode, this is by far my favourite. Even my father likes to play it, and that's really strange, for he loves music of the 60's.
I highly recommend this album to everyone, those interested in good music, in learning about Depeche Mode, or just looking for a different and elegant album.