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4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 13 April 2006
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.
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on 8 August 2000
I waited in anticipation for the arrival of this CD. Would Alans departure affect the sound of what is undoubtedly this countries most undervalued band? would Dave actually live through any ensuing tours which could result from this album? How on the face of this planet could the boys follow up the musical mountain that is SOFAD? The answer was immediatly apparent with the release of Barrel of a gun, SOFAD is not a mountain No, ULTRA moves me! What a JOY. DM (especially the genius of Martin) are phonominal, they go from strength to strenght with seamless effort. Home, Usless, Freestate, Insight, where the hell do these inspired tunes come from? I am a fan, and therefore impartial readers of this review may question the validity of this opinion, my only retort to these questions is buy this album, listen to HOME, and be prepared to go out and buy every other recording that this fandabbydozie band have ever made.
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on 21 October 2005
At first I didn't take to this album. It sounded a bit too 'grungy' for my musical taste. A friend suggested that I listen to it through headphones. I did and I've never looked back. This has become my favourite album of all time (knocking Thomas Dolby's 'Flat Earth' off my top slot). Every vocal track is brilliant (the 3 instumentals are below average). The overall production is excellent.
The track 'Home' has to be my fave track of all time. I cannot find fault with it.
I'm not easily impressed. I'm VERY choosey. 'Ultra' is highly reccomended. Especially through headphones... Enjoy!!!
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VINE VOICEon 11 April 2008
Barcode: 0094638416425

With the new millenium drawing near, this album saw the band following on from the feel and sound of the dark, rocky SOFAD but as other reviewers have stated, Ultra softened this sound down. The songs became less harsh, more organic, more slickly produced.

I think the general public were confused about where Depeche Mode stood in modern pop music - beginning to be left behind by commercial radio stations, while the album and first two singles fared well (in fact reaching some of the highest positions ever attained by the band), things were less rosy on Useless and Home.

Despite that, i think Ultra will always have a special place in the hearts of many fans. It is with this album more than ever that you feel closest to the band, the emotion showing throw in bucketloads in the poeticism of Martin's lyrics and Dave's simply amazing voice. 'Home' remains to this date one of the most entrancing of all the band's songs, Martin's haunting voice playing wonderfully against a backdrop of atmospheric synths that build into a crescendo of strings in the chorus that still sends a shiver of pure wonder down my spine. I've said it before but the lyrics on this songs really are just amazing.

'Barrel Of A Gun' is really interesting, building slowly. Like SOFAD, this represents some of the band's rockier material yet its relentless assault on your senses with its thunderous beats and that intoxicating hummed hook it's one you'll keep coming back to for more. Awesome video too. 'It's No Good' soundwise takes a completely opposite route yet somehow feels completely at home on the same record as 'Barrel Of A Gun'. It's that masterfully woven tapestry of sound that just grabs you and surrounds you for the album's entirety - magic.

Ultra is music for dark, lonely nights - its a drink and confiding chat with an old friend. Every time i listen to the album i find myself thinking about just how good the album is, very consistent in its quality - brilliant album tracks like Freestate testament to that. But somehow, the album seems alien. Despite all its intense emotions and delicate blend of sounds - it feels cold and daunting.

This is a good thing though! Its the sound of a blank expanse where dreams become reality, the daunting coldness adding that indefinable tension that keeps you hooked to this album. If i could sum it up i'd say it was like a door you don't want to open because you aren't sure what you will find on the other side. But the curiosity kicks in and you look inside and find yourself in a place of magic and wonder - once listenting to the album you cannot tear yourself away, each song flowing beautifully into the next.

A lot of the songs on Ultra are very groove driven, percussion and basslines taking a prominent place but what i love is that there are so many little intricate details in each track that this album never loses its appeal, every listen presenting something new. It is truly an album to provoke an emotional response in the listener and their lies its timeless appeal.

In terms of this re-release (which comes in the standard top-quality digipak with accompanying and informative new album notes) there's a great documentary and although its slightly annoying the bonus tracks are on the DVD and thus not easily imported in iTunes, they make for a nice extra.
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VINE VOICEon 5 November 2007
In my humble opinion, this is a better album than SOFAD simply because it doesnt sound as pompous or hubristic. Don't get me wrong, SOFAD deservedly went to number one, but it almost verges into prog rocky hubris, probably because one poor overworked man was responsible for most of the production and arranging on it; he then left in 1995...

Tim simenon did a really sterling job with this, and the 5.1 mixes prove how good the original production was. This still has the BIG sounds that depeche are known and noted for, and the balance of stripping down the arrangements is just right. Im glad this album is enjoying a bit of a renaissance as Simenon deserves a lot of praise for the 2 odd years he had to "keep his hand in" to steer this to finish.

Really heartfelt performances, musicianship, and songwriting. Perhaps this will get the same praise as BLACK CELEBRATION one day...
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on 21 September 2013
By 1997 I had grown bored of Depeche Mode. 1993's "Songs of Faith and Devotion" had quickly become a disappointment, mainly due to the uncomfortable and nagging opinion that they just did not suit the rock posturing that that album and subsequent tour appeared to spawn. "Ultra" was the first record of theirs since "Black Celebration" that I hadn't bought on release, I heard it at a friend's house several times, but it didn't make a huge impression on me, other than the fact that had embraced their electronic strengths once more. It took me about a year before I finally bought it. Initially that was for completist purposes only. However, repeated listenings changed my outlook entirely. It defines the word "grower" and is now probably my joint favourite Depeche Mode album, alongside "Violator". Instrumental interludes aside, there isn't a bad song on it, and possibly the only criticism I can level at it is that it is slightly one-paced. But it's pace fits the songs and Tim Simenon's vital production is outstanding. Whereas Alan Wilder/Flood and even Daniel Miller tended to throw the kitchen sink at it, Simenon let's the music breathe. Melodically and musically it is a wonderful merging of Martin Gore's songwriting and David Gahan's singing. So many moments stand out, the wonderfully understated guitar solo on "The Love Thieves", the crescendo of strings towards the climax of "Home",the beautiful, swirling synthesiser fade out on "Sister of Night" and the unusual vocal interplay and harmonies between Gahan and Gore on the wonderful closing track "Insight". Depeche Mode have only sporadically made decent music since 1997, but this album, considering the internal turmoil that preceded it's release, is an outstanding statement of defiance.
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on 31 December 2007
Depeche Mode have always been more than a music group to their fans. Members of Generation X who found themselves outside the rockier, faddier or simply plain cheesier streams of the years from the early 80's to the early noughties found something far, far more visceral and penetrating through the Mode. Euphoria, pain, addiction, akwardness, hope for a more subtle world - Depeche Mode gave a literal narrative philosophy to outsiders everywhere.
Then, in 1995, implosion. Dave Gahan almost dead. Martin Gore on the verge of breakdown. Andy Fletcher a burnout case. Alan Wilder - much the 'music meister' from Black Celebration (1986)onwards - out of the band.
What now? Surely the end?
We should have known better. They came back, they hired Tim Simenon to produce the album and made what some would argue as their most heartfelt and powerful body of work. This album is not only music, it is a story of pain and redemption, of bleak expectations and astonishing self-discovery. Musically, each track is impeccable - electronic meditation of the inner self and a call to action for the jaded ones among us. On 'Freestate'..'let yourself go, let your senses overflow, open the gate, freedom's a state' - you see, Depeche Mode being not just a music group again. Something else comes through on 'Ultra', something much greater and more compassionate than anything they did before. This album is full of things that will bring tears to your eyes whilst stiffening your spine for the journey ahead. Is this not what the Mode are all about in the end? Highly recommended stuff.
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on 3 October 2014
The best Depeche Mode album hands down.

Omly Violator comes close.

A definitive return to form after Dave Gahan's near death experience, this might never have happened if things had turned out differently.

A dark, brooding, synth rock masterpiece.

An absolutely essential must buy.

Very very highly Recommended.

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Spent force?! I don't think so! I won't deny that Alan Wilder was sadly missed by the majority of DM fans, particularly when listening to "Ultra" for the first time. However, at the end of the day, it's Martin's craftsmanship that lifts "Ultra" above albums by many other similar artists.
For me, "Ultra" contains some of the best songs of Martin's career, "Home" and "It's No Good", both singles, the melancholy "Home" In particular is a superb track, laden with it's lush string arrangements and sung beautifully by Martin with one of his tenderest vocals.
I like to give this album a little rope as it's the comeback album we never thought we'd get. After Dave's well publicised drug problems in the mid-90's' it seemed that "Songs Of Faith & Devotion" would be, at least for me, an unsatisfactory end to a remarkable career. Thankfully, I was wrong and I wait with baited breath for their eleventh album, "Playing The Angel".
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on 2 November 2014
Good as I remembered. I put this on my ipod shuffle and went down memory lane. Nice to have a remastered version in the Depeche Mode Collection. This for my money was the last of Depeche Mode's albums that had some form of theme, or coherence to them. Sorry but everything past Ultra is not great. This was the last DM album I ever got excited about.
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