The Violet Flame

Onge's Review

Back in the 1980s when the band were at their most prolific, a new Erasure would arrive almost every year. Fast forward into 2000s and album releases have become a bit more sparce but fans rarely have to wait more than a few years for a new LP to come out. So in autumn 2014, less than year since the Christmas themed Snow Globe album, and hot on the heels of not one, but two Andy Bell solo albums, The Violet Flame was released. Dead Of Night a lively way to open the album and has an immediate club/dance-floor feel to it with its menacing synths and thumping beats. It's all very electro, with Andy's sultry vocals and lyrics about a deceitful partner. The "D-D-D-D-Dead of night" chorus isn't immediately gratifying but before long it infiltrates your brain and won't leave! A strong way to get the album underway. Slick lead single Elevation follows. With it's summery feel and uplifting lyrics it is a pleasant track (and a real grower) but it's a little unremarkable overall. Nice, but not a classic Erasure track. Unlike the eurphoric Reason which is one of the band's finest tracks for many a year. The tub-thumbing beat and popping synths compliment a rich tapestry of joyous Vince-isms which are buried in the mix. The uplifting lyrics and impossibly infectious bridge and chorus make this one of the most melodic and enjoyable tracks since Cowboy (which is a very, very good thing!). Flawless pop at its very best.

Some who've been burned before will be reluctant to give Erasure another chance. For fans and those with open minds, however, The Violet Flame's existence is vivid proof that Erasure are still on fire.

Classic Pop Magazine

Promises is next and with it's pulsating synths and club-like bass this is another song that would feel at home on the dance-floor. As the song continues, more layers are added to the arrangement with more trademark Vince sounds becoming increasingly prevalent. The track wouldn't feel out of place on Andy's Electric Blue or iPop solo albums and is a solid and accomplished track. The divine and beautiful Be The One is next and is one of the band's most beautiful and heartfelt songs. Andy's vocals are long and drawn out and are unlike any other Erasure song I can think of. It's incredible that after all these years, the band can create something that sounds so fresh and different. This is the ballad of the album and although it's a slower track, you'll still find yourself tapping your feet along with the beat. Lyrically Andy is very much on form and the arrangement once more is slick and on the money (especially the sublime middle 8). An instant classic. Next up is fans' favourite Sacred which sees the return of Andy's falsetto in the ethereal introduction, which is complemented nicely with pulsating synths and trance-like notes. The track builds up nicely to an epic musical chorus. I say musical, because there aren't really any lyrics in the chorus (apart from some woahs), but it still works on every level. A very enjoyable track that is impossible to sit still to.

The relentless quality continues with the magnificent Under The Wave, right from the 1980s opening with plinky notes to the lush arrangement of various Andys woahing as the song concludes. Bouncy and whimsical, it has a Chorus b-side shimmer to it. Andy's sweeping vocals are delivered in a delicious low register and whilst the lyrics have a very sombre edge to them the song feels sweet and bubbly. The military style drums in the chorus are great, as is the oh-oh-oh melody after the chorus. A brilliant song only Erasure are capable of creating. The pace of the album then slows for the melancholy Smoke & Mirrors. The twisted synth opening and interesting, almost tribal, percussion allow Andy's tormented vocals to be unimpeded in the foreground. The song acts as a vechile for Andy to make a posthumous apology to his former partner Paul Hickey and whilst the lyrics are deeply heartfelt and personal the song doesn't quite feel like it ever gets going. The tempo is subsquently raised by Paradise (no, not the b-side to Drama! - this is a different song with the same name). Rhythmic synths and thumbing beats once again conjure visions of a nightclub dance-floor, with this track having a very strong disco feel to it. There are quirky trademark Vince sounds in the mix, including a creaking synth sound that reminds me of some early Depeche Mode tracks. This song perhaps lacks a killer vocal hook, although lyrically it is strong. The album concludes in strong fashion in the form of the regretful Stayed A Little Late Tonight. The retro synth opening gives way to a nice mid-tempo track which uses an undertone of piano chords to allow story-telling lyrics of conflict, fear and self-blame to take centre stage. For some reason, fading out songs has gone completely out of fashion since Nightbird and as with every other track on this album, this song just stops. The ending is too abrupt for my liking but I guess it just leaves me wanting more!

Fans' Best/Worst Of

Top 3 Songs
  1. Sacred
  2. Reason
  3. Under The Wave
Bottom 2 Songs
  1. Promises
  2. Paradise
Results taken from Quick Poll #79

The double album edition includes a second CD of live tracks recorded as part of the Live At Short Circuit festival at The Roundhouse, London in May 2011. In all, the live performance contains 11 songs that cover many of the band's biggest hits as well as the ever popular album track Hideaway. The band were on good form on night (despite Andy mixing up some lyrics as usual!) and the atmosphere of the crowd comes across well. With the exception of the Acoustic Tour in 2006, all the tours the band have done from the turn of the century have musically sounded pretty much the same with Vince no longer hitting the road with a collection of synths but instead just taking his laptop. The arrangements found here are slightly different than on previous tours which helps differentiate this collection of live tracks from other recent live albums and concert bootlegs, which is certainly welcome. Overall, the CD makes for a pleasant, if not essential, companion to the album.

The limited edition box set of The Violet Flame also includes an exclusive third CD which contains remixes of each song from the album. The Violet Flame Remixed is inconsistent in its quality with a few too many fairly generic dance remixes that don't hit the sweet spot. That said, there are some strong reworkings to be found such as the sumptuious Paul Humphreys Remix of Be The One, the atmospheric Smoke & Mirrors Atatika Remix and the fine Black Light Odyssey Remix of Paradise. The less said about the terrible Daniel Miller Sacred remix the better though! Those who bought the box set were also treated to a download of the DJ Mix of the album. Expertly remixed by Electronic Periodic, this continuous single track mixes all the songs of the album together (vocally Be The One and Smoke & Mirrors are omitted but musically make cameos in the arrangement) and is an excellent alternative way to enjoy The Violet Flame. As too is the 24-bit FLAC file download of the album that is also available to those who bought the box set. FLAC files not only offer far superior sound than MP3s, but being 24-bit means the sound quality is actually even higher than that found on the CD (which uses a 16-bit digital format). Arguably only an audiophile using high end speakers or headphones can tell the difference between the FLAC files vs CD sound but it is nice to finally see Mute embracing high fidelity digital formats.

Summary

After nearly a decade, Nightbird finally has a viable contender for the best Erasure album of the 21st century which speaks volumes for how much The Violet Flame is a return to form for the band. There isn't a single weak track, Andy's got his mojo back when it comes to writing lyrics and the production is slick, layered and inventive throughout. Much credit needs to go to producer Richard X who not only has given the album a modern sheen whilst staying true to the band's trademark sound, but was actually so involved in helping forge the album that for the first time ever the band decided to give the producer a writing credit for the whole album. The writing process was also unprecidented whereby the band did not write the songs on piano and guitar but instead laid down synth tracks straight away and this, coupled with the Clarke / Bell / Richard X partnership, has resulted in an excellent album that is home to some of the band's finest ever songs. Simply put, The Violet Flame shines dazzlingly bright and is an album not to be missed.

Fan Reviews

Below are some fan reviews written by visitors to this very site. Once you've read these, please feel free to use the form at the end of the page to write your own review.

  1. I throw this album in with Tomorrows World. It’s still not ERASURE in the classic sense of the word. It seems like another Andy Bell solo effort. “Snow Globe” was more of a return to Erasure with songs like “Bells Of Love” and “Loving Man” more than this album is. I also find the song writing to be sort of rushed here, the hooks aren’t really thought out well.

    1. DEAD OF NIGHT: Definitely a cool riff, good singing in the verses, nice pre-chorus, I like this one a lot… feels very 80s with a modern vibe. I don’t think it feels ERASURE enough though… some people like that… I am more of an Erasure purist I guess. (7/10)

    2. ELEVATION: I like the feel good vibe of this track but at the end of the day, it’s a simple club track with a very basic 4 on the floor dance beat. I swear this is the same drum loop heard in every modern club track since 2010. I also feel the chorus is weak. How about an actually vocal hook instead of “Elevate me…” I do really like the pre-chorus a lot, nice mix of melody and chords (what do we do when the fate of many is guided by the hands of few”.) I feel that part would fit nice in a true erasure track. (7/10)

    3. REASON: Again, like Dead Of Night and several other tracks, yes it does feature arppegiators but they sound kinda generic if you ask me. It’s no “I Say I Say I Say”. The sequences just run throughout the whole song too. They aren’t placed strategically as in the past. Having said that, I think this song is very well written and has the hook thats needed. I keep humming “You’re the reason I live”… that’s a HOOK! However, this is the same chorus as “I COULD FALL IN LOVE WITH YOU”… you could sing it right on top (but it’s not as good as that song). (7/10)

    4. PROMISES: This for me is the worst on the album. It’s very boring. Try to play this on acoustic guitar. There’s no hook, no pay off. It TRIES to be cool, but I feel this is very poorly written. If you want a straight up club track, sure it works, but I want an ERASURE ALBUM damn it! There’s so much crap that already sounds like this. (3/10)

    5. BE THE ONE: This song had SO MUCH POTENTIAL. I love the sentiment of this song, but I feel they just didn’t get it right. Especially in the chorus, they disturbed the chord progression in a non-natural way. The chord under the 3rd phrase “Come and stand in the setting sun…”, it just doesn’t work. I also feel the verses could have been written better. This really had so much potential… it’s still beautiful, but I feel it missed the mark. They should have just kept the chord progression in the chorus that our ears want! (6/10)

    6. SACRED: This song also had SO MUCH POTENTIAL…. but you can’t have a chorus people will remember and just sing the word “sacred” 3 times with some “woah woah”. Vince’s riff is damn amazing in the chorus, it just needed a catchy melodic hook (think “Victim Of Love” or maybe “Star”. You can hum those, sing it to others and they will go “Oh yea, THAT song”… try singing the chorus to “Sacred”… it falls flat on yer face! (6/10)

    7. UNDER THE WAVE: The closest thing to Erasure on this record!! This track made me smile. It actually sounds like a recording from the Nightbird sessions. It is flushed out well, I feel. It’s not entirely catchy, but it’s a full song put together properly. I enjoy this one but can’t give it any higher than a 7/10 since songs like “Always”, and “Sono Luminus” are 9/10. This song aint even close to them, so 7/10 it is. (7/10)

    8. SMOKE AND MIRRORS: This one through me for a loop on first listening. This is unlike anything Erasure has ever done. It’s very serious. I didn’t like it on first listen, but I am listening now, and I do like the vibe. Almost seems like a Depeche track if you ask me. It’s a bit droning but that’s the point. (6/10)

    9. PARADISE: Love the deep bass on this one, it’s got a great groove, still feels like an Andy Bell solo track though. I think it’s a good song though, well written, not excellent though. That’s my problem, so far I haven’t heard an EXCELLENT song on this album (7/10)

    10. STAYED A LITTLE LATE: BEST SONG ON THE ALBUM!!! This song shows that the guys STILL GOT IT if they want to!!! This song literally sounds like it was written in 1993-1995 somewhere). Not just the nice arpeggiators and arrangement, but the actual song writing. This is a SONG people! An EXCELLENT SONG! It takes you on a journey, goes to places you don’t truly expect. So many different parts that just WORK! I wish the album was more like this song. It would truly be one of my favorite Erasure records, and not fall by the wasteside the same way “Tomorrow’s World” has done for me. (9/10).

    Overall, this doesn’t feel like an ERASURE album (except for the last song). Erasure was all about being unique and the craft of GREAT SONGWRITING, which we don’t see much of here. Still an enjoyable listen. The whole album gets a 6/10 for me.

    6 out of 10
    Reviewed by Adam Lewis
    23 September 2014 9:59 pm (GMT)
  2. I am not the best at reviews so I will keep things simple. I have to say I have really enjoyed the buildup to this album . Sure I was worried that this album would be far away from the usual Erasure sound that I love , but I was very pleasantly surprised on how Familiar sounding the album actually is ! Sure it’s a more dance orientated feel , but it still gets me singing along with Andy’s vocals and I can spot Vinces trade mark twinkling in all the songs .
    So onto
    Dead of night. A great opening track . Lovely synths and vocals d-d-d-d dead of night . Quite deep and dark but I love it . 8/10

    ELevation . Really like this one ! It’s so euphoric and creates a great feeling inside of me. Andys voice is great and I can hear Vince all over this . A great single and really quite beautiful . Something a bit different for a single but very good . 10/10

    Reason. More of the classic Erasure and great to sing along to. 10/10

    Promises . certainly a club feel to this one. The weakest track but I love the backing track and its growing on more the more times I listen to it . 7/10

    Be The One . This one gave me goosebumps the first time I heard it . It really gets under my skin and is simply gorgeous. Lovely lyrics and such a sensuous feel to it . 9/10

    Sacred . Wow . I love Andys vocals building up with a beat to the word SACRED and then we are hit by the Euphoric powerful synths . I love the middle of the song ” this is all we ever needed ” then back into the beat again .. A POWERFUL song and it really makes me want to shout it out 10/10

    Under the wave. Erasure classic and I looooove it . I love this catchy tune and love singing along . It feels camp and simply divine . Would fit in nicely on the isay isay isay album . Cracking song ! 10/10

    Smoke and Mirrors . Deep but I love the chorus and I love the synth sound that drives in the backing track . Kind of trancey this one . Super ! 9/10

    Paradise . Erasure classic sound . Electronic and instantly enjoyable . Another song that I love singing along to. 10/10

    Stayed a little late. Classic Erasure sounding . Nice beat , nice chorus and beautifully sung . 9/10

    I feel that all the songs are just really very good. Lots of variety and this album is certainly going to be one of my favourites. I find it hard scoring each song ! I think that it’s upbeat and makes me feel great listening to it . Erasure still haven’t lost it , and keep making me very happy and that’s all that matters ! I am going to be playing this album for a long time . Excellent work boys !

    10 out of 10
    Reviewed by Ed Brandrick
    24 September 2014 9:34 pm (GMT)
  3. The wait is over, at last an Erasure album for more than 20 years that don’t disappoint in anyway.

    The syths are magical with thumping base and beat lines, this is the best vocals from Andy since Cowboy.

    Not much more to say other than ‘Perfection’

    Thanks Andy & Vince,

    10 out of 10
    Reviewed by Steve Parkes
    29 September 2014 7:48 pm (GMT)
  4. 1. “Dead of Night” 8/10
    3. “Reason” 6/10
    4. “Promises” 6/10
    5. “Be the One” 9/10
    6. “Sacred” 7/10
    7. “Under the Wave” 10/10
    8. “Smoke and Mirrors” 6/10
    9. “Paradise” 6/10
    10. “Stayed a Little Late Tonight” 6/10

    Enjoying this album as a good solid erasure album with some great tracks such as be the one and under the wave, also loving d d d d dead of nigh..definitely their best since night bird….

    7 out of 10
    Reviewed by Paraic Elliott
    29 September 2014 8:15 pm (GMT)
  5. What can I say? Best album since erasure “erasure” loved lateotw, nightbird cowboy! Think the only blip was tommorrows world good album but not great! Return to form for the best band in the world . And also really glad they are back in the top twenty album chart and seeing their album in all the main supermarkets.

    10 out of 10
    Reviewed by john magee clitheroe lancs
    2 October 2014 7:25 pm (GMT)
  6. “Dead Of Night” 7 /10
    “Elevation” 7/10
    “Reason” 10/10
    “Promises” 9.5/10
    “Be The One” 8/10
    “Sacred” 8/10
    “Under The Wave” 9/10
    “Smoke and Mirrors” 5/10
    “Paradise” 8.5/10
    “Stayed a Little Late” 9/10

    *Thanks Vince, Andy — This is the album I’ve been waiting for!

    8 out of 10
    Reviewed by milo
    10 October 2014 3:04 pm (GMT)
  7. Absolutely stunning piece of work!

    Well done Vince, Andy and Richard X!

    Every song 10/10!

    10 out of 10
    Reviewed by Brendan
    11 October 2014 12:57 pm (GMT)
  8. Perfect album in every way! Best work since “Erasure”. Thanks guys for this masterpiece!

    10 out of 10
    Reviewed by Fernando, Barcelona, Spain
    12 October 2014 7:05 pm (GMT)
  9. The Violet Flame continues the dancefloor theme of Tomorrow’s World, with six of the ten tracks geared towards getting people moving. In order of preference, I would say Reason, Elevation, Dead Of Night, Sacred, Paradise, Promises. Reason has some nice Vince twiddles, some Fill Us With Fire vocal moments from Andy, and an uplifting, driving vibe. The only quibble I have with the dancier stuff is that it doesn’t utilise the full range of Andy’s voice.
    Under The Wave bobs along nicely, but of the two mid-paced tracks I would say that Stayed A Little Late Tonight is stronger lyrically. Be The One is lovely, and reminiscent of various I Say tracks. Smoke And Mirrors is a rare dark Erasure moment, and makes you listen, which is always good.

    8 out of 10
    Reviewed by Paul UK
    14 October 2014 9:45 am (GMT)
  10. The Violet Flame is fantastic, its up there with Erasure’s five number one albums, I have always said it, that Erasure work better when they bounce ideas off a new producer and this time around its Richard X, why they spent so many albums working with dire Gareth Jones is beyond me.

    10 out of 10
    Reviewed by burt
    15 October 2014 9:25 pm (GMT)
  11. I loved you Mr Bell when I was 14! Loved Wonderland, Circus, the Innocents! I am now 42 and I still love you! Thank you for your honest apology to Paul in Smoke & Mirrors! I have always loved your sensual voice and heartfelt lyrics! Ur a 10/10 for me

    10 out of 10
    Reviewed by Alex Sydney Australia
    14 February 2015 11:01 am (GMT)
  12. After a short hope for listening to some REAL Erasure music from the Snow Globe album (I think of those five great pieces originally written by Clarke / Bell on this album), it is strange to hear again that the band feel their music is best represented when deeply merged in something like a club feeling with songs mostly written on simple melodic clichés accompanied by strong and up-to-date but not too much sophisticated backing music.

    Sure, there is one exception on the entire album which really sounds like Erasure. It’s song number five titled ‘Be The One’.

    Among a category not too bad can be ranked ‘Reason’, ‘Sacred’ and ‘Smoke & Mirrors’.

    What is most surprising is to hear the B-side for ‘Reason’ titled ‘Die 4 Love’. Am I alone to feel that this piece is hundred percent of what one might call TRUE and REAL Erasure?

    One or two pieces of work ‘from‘ or ‘beside‘ an album is what Erasure are still able to give to fans who loved their music when it was more than ‘club music factory’.

    All this cannot be explained away by simple aversion to mid-tempo songs like what one heard of Vince and Andy several years ago.

    2 out of 10
    Reviewed by Balazs Gaal, Budapest, Hungary
    9 June 2015 9:06 pm (GMT)
  13. Really great álbum! Some Of The best Erasure songs Of The 21st century: Reason, Under The Wave and Be The One! Love it!

    9 out of 10
    Reviewed by BRossete Joinville, Brasil
    14 March 2016 4:17 pm (GMT)

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